Quick Facts about Anemia
As a general overview, these quick facts introduce the different types of anemia, its symptoms and common risk factors. You can also find anemia statistics in the education kit or more in-depth descriptions of anemia of chronic disease in our online resources for patients, consumers and health professionals.
Anemia is a signal that your body has a shortage of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells which delivers oxygen to tissues and organs. Anemia can be a temporary condition, a consequence of other health conditions, or it can be a chronic problem. If allowed to persist, this condition can have serious consequences, affecting both quality and length of life. But when anemia is identified, appropriate treatments can help correct and manage it.
Common types of anemia:
Anemia of chronic disease develops as the result of a long-term infection or illness such as cancer or diabetes. Normally, the kidneys make the hormone erythropoietin which signals the bone marrow to produce red blood cells. Chronic diseases can disrupt this process by slowing erythropoietin production or by not allowing the body to use stored iron. With fewer red blood cells there is less hemoglobin to carry oxygen throughout your body, resulting in anemia. Information handouts for patients explain the causes, symptoms and treatments for anemia caused by specific chronic diseases.
Anemias associated with bone marrow disease, such as leukemia and myelodysplasia, can cause anemia by affecting blood production in the bone marrow.
Hemolytic anemias develop when red blood cells are destroyed faster than the bone marrow can replace them. Examples include sickle thalassemia and aplastic anemia.
Iron deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia. It can be caused by a low-iron diet, not enough iron being absorbed by your body, or bleeding from the digestive tract. Iron is an essential part of hemoglobin and without enough of either, your body will not get the right amount of oxygen.
Vitamin deficiency anemia is often caused by not eating enough foods that contain essential vitamins or when your body is not able to absorb certain vitamins. Your body needs folate, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and vitamin C to produce healthy red blood cells. Not having enough of one or more of these vitamins may cause anemia.
Symptoms and signs of anemia:
Fatigue is the main symptom of most types of anemia
A rapid heartbeat
Shortness of breath
Numbness or coldness in your hands and feet
Factors which can put you at risk for anemia:
Chronic blood loss