What is Anemia ?

Do you feel worn out and drained? Do you ever catch yourself daydreaming? Do you find that climbing stairs makes you feel lightheaded or out of breath? There are a few reasons why you would feel the way you do, but you might have anemia. Even without showing any symptoms, you could develop anemia. Hemoglobin, a component of red blood cells that transports oxygen throughout your body, is the issue in anemia. Your heart and other organs can’t get the oxygen they need to function if you don’t have enough hemoglobin. When your organs begin to slow down, you also begin to slow down and experience fatigue and lethargy.


Anemia can be brought on by a wide range of medical disorders, including pregnancy, an underactive thyroid gland, and significant menstrual blood loss. The soft tissue in the center of your bones called bone marrow is where healthy red blood cells are created. Your ability to produce red blood cells can be impacted by any condition that harms your blood marrow, including lymphoma and leukemia. An immune system disorder that destroys red blood cells as well as stomach or intestine operations can also result in anemia.


How can one tell if they have anemia?

You can experience fatigue, lightheadedness, and difficulty focusing. You might become ill more frequently. Chest pain, headaches, and shortness of breath are common complaints made by those who are anemic. Your skin may appear drab and as though you haven’t seen the sun in weeks. Your doctor will order a blood test to examine your hemoglobin level and red blood cell count in order to rule out other disorders since these signs and symptoms of anemia can also be present in other people. Blood testing can also check for conditions like a vitamin or iron deficit that may be causing your anemia. It’s crucial to treat anemia if you have it.

Your body can starve essential organs like your heart when it doesn’t get enough oxygen. The result could be a heart attack. The reason truly dictates the course of treatment for anemia. If your bone marrow is the source of the issue, you might consider taking the drug erythropoietin, which will encourage your bone marrow to produce more red blood cells. Your doctor could advise taking iron, vitamin B12, or folic acid supplements if a vitamin or mineral shortage is the cause of the issue.

You might also require a blood transfusion to restore the unhealthy red blood cells that were damaged. How well you perform is largely influenced by the cause of your anemia. If you experience any symptoms, such as exhaustion or shortness of breath, call your doctor. You should have more energy and resume feeling like yourself once your doctor has identified and treated the source of your anemia.


Anemia can have several forms, including:

  •     Anemia due to vitamin B12 deficiency
  •     Anemia due to folate (folic acid) deficiency
  •     Anemia due to iron deficiency
  •     Anemia of chronic disease
  •     Hemolytic anemia
  •     Idiopathic aplastic anemia
  •     Megaloblastic anemia
  •     Pernicious anemia
  •     Sickle cell anemia
  •     Thalassemia

The most typical type of anemia is iron deficiency anemia.


Although several areas of the body contribute to the production of red blood cells, the bone marrow is where most of the work is done. The soft tissue in the center of bones called bone marrow aids in the production of all blood cells.

Red blood cells in good health have a lifespan of 90 to 120 days. Then, various bodily parts flush out old blood cells. Your kidneys produce a hormone called erythropoietin (epo), which instructs your bone marrow to produce more red blood cells.


The protein that carries oxygen inside red blood cells is called hemoglobin. Red blood cells get their color from it. Hemoglobin levels in those with anemia are insufficient.

For the body to produce enough red blood cells, specific vitamins, minerals, and nutrients are required. Among the most crucial are folic acid, iron, and vitamin B12. The following reasons the body might not have enough of these nutrients:

  • Alterations to the stomach or gut lining that impact how well foods are absorbed (for example, celiac disease)
  • Poor diet
  • Surgery to remove a portion of the intestines or stomach


Possible causes of anemia include:

  •     Iron deficiency
  •     Vitamin B12 deficiency
  •     Folate deficiency
  •     Certain medicines
  •     Destruction of red blood cells earlier than normal (which may be caused by immune system problems)
  •     Long-term (chronic) diseases such as chronic kidney disease, cancer, ulcerative colitis, or rheumatoid arthritis
  •     Some forms of anemia, such as thalassemia or sickle cell anemia, which can be inherited
  •     Pregnancy
  •     Problems with bone marrow such as lymphoma, leukemia, myelodysplasia, multiple myeloma, or aplastic anemia
  •     Slow blood loss (for example, from heavy menstrual periods or stomach ulcers)
  •     Sudden heavy blood loss



If the anemia is minor or if the condition worsens gradually, you might not experience any symptoms. Possible initial symptoms include:

Feeling less strong or energetic than normal, especially after exercising

  • Headaches
  • Difficulty focusing or thinking
  • Irritability
  • Reduced appetite
  • Tingling and numbness in the hands and feet

Symptoms that could appear as the anemia worsens include:

  • The whites of the eyes are blue.
  • Broken nails
  • A need for ice or other non-food items (pica syndrome)
  • Feeling dizzy when you stand up
  • Light skin tone
  • Breathlessness even during light activity or while at rest
  • Inflamed or sore tongue
  • Oral sores
  • Abnormal or excessive bleeding during a woman’s period
  • Loss of  sex desire


Tests and Exams

The doctor will do a physical examination, and they might discover:


  •     A heart murmur
  •     Low blood pressure, especially when you stand up
  •     Slight fever
  •     Pale skin
  •     Rapid heart rate


Other abnormalities on a physical exam could be caused by some kinds of anemia.

The following blood tests may be performed to identify some common kinds of anemia:


  • Blood levels of iron, vitamin B12, folic acid, and other vitamins and minerals
  • Complete blood count
  • Reticulocyte count

To identify health issues that can lead to anemia, additional tests might be performed.


In order to treat anemia, one should focus on its underlying cause.

  • Transfusions of blood
  • Corticosteroids or other immune-suppressing medications
  • Using the drug erythropoietin, your bone marrow can produce more blood cells.
  • Iron, vitamin B12, folic acid, and other vitamin and mineral supplements


Issues that could arise

Heart failure can result from severe anemia because it lowers the oxygen levels in important organs like the heart.



Key Points :

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A review article by

Dr Bhavna Kalvala

(Clinical Research Director @ IEEARC Tech)

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