Anemia is a general term for the most common blood disorder in the U.S. Anemia occurs when there are too few red blood cells in the blood. Anemia is a symptom of a wide variety of mild to serious diseases, disorders and conditions. Anemia can result from nutritional deficiencies, trauma, hemorrhage, transfusion reaction, malabsorption, chronic diseases, inherited diseases, autoimmune diseases, malignancy, and treatments for malignancy, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Anemia can occur when the body does not produce enough red blood cells, such as in vitamin B12 deficiency. Anemia can also occur when the body destroys old red blood cells faster than it produces now ones, such as in hemolytic anemia and sickle cell disease. Anemia can also occur when there is a deficiency of hemoglobin in the red blood cells, such as in iron deficiency anemia and thalassemia. Any disease, disorder or condition that causes heavy bleeding (hemorrhage) can also cause anemia. These can include postpartum hemorrhage, postoperative hemorrhage, gastrointestinal bleeding, peptic ulcer, colorectal cancer, ulcerative colitis, ruptured aneurysm, and trauma that causes hemorrhage.
The most important element of red blood cells is called hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein that carries vital oxygen from the lungs through the bloodstream to the cells, tissues and organs of the body. Many symptoms of anemia are due to a decreased amount of hemoglobin in the blood. These symptoms can include dizziness, shortness of breath, weakness, palpitations, fatigue, and fainting. Hypotension and pallor or pale skin are also common symptoms.
There are also many other symptoms that can accompany the symptoms of anemia, depending on the disease, disorder or condition that is causing anemia. Complications of anemia can be serious, even life-threatening. Underlying diseases, disorders or conditions of anemia can also cause complications. For more details about symptoms and complications, see symptoms of anemia.
Diagnosing anemia and its underlying cause begins with taking a thorough personal and family medical history, including symptoms, and completing a physical examination.
Anemia can be generally diagnosed with a blood test called a complete blood count (CBC). A complete blood count can determine the number, size, and color of the red blood cells and the amount of hemoglobin they hold.
Making a diagnosis also includes performing a variety of other tests to help to diagnose the underlying disease, condition or disorder causing anemia. This may include a blood test that measures ferritin, a test for vitamin B12 deficiency and tests to determine if a person has sickle cell trait or thalassemia trait.
A digital rectal examination and testing for fecal occult blood are also generally performed. A digital rectal examination involves inserting a finger into the rectum to feel for any abnormalities and obtain a sample of stool to test for the presence of blood, which may not be visible to the naked eye. If blood is present in stool, the cause of anemia may be a disease or condition that causes bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract, a common cause of anemia.
In this case, making a diagnosis of the underlying cause of anemia includes performing special imaging tests to see a picture of the inside of the gastrointestinal tract. These may consist of some combination of tests, such as a barium X-ray, CT scan, MRI, and a variety of tests using video imaging technology, such as sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy.
Sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy involves passing a small flexible tube fitted with a camera through the anus into the colon to look for abnormal areas and sites of bleeding. The upper areas of the gastrointestinal tract, such as the esophagus and stomach, can be examined in a similar way through the mouth and esophagus in an endoscopy procedure.
A diagnosis of anemia and its cause can easily be delayed or missed because symptoms can be similar to symptoms of other conditions. In addition, tiny amounts of bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract may not be noticeable for long periods of time. For information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of anemia.
Treatment of anemia involves diagnosing and treating the underlying disease, disorder or condition that is causing it. Some conditions can be easily and successfully treated and cured, while others may require more intensive treatment and may not have an optimal prognosis. Treatment may or may not include blood transfusion. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of anemia. ...more »
Anemia refers to a low red blood cell count.
Hallmark symptoms include fatigue and pallor (pale skin).
Mild forms of anemia may go undiagnosed.
Anemia is also a common complication of pregnancy
and it is important to diagnose it in pregnancy, because of the
high risk to the mother of maternal bleeding in childbirth.
There are various types of anemia and causes of anemia. ...more »
Symptoms of anemia can vary greatly from person to person, depending on the severity of anemia and the underlying cause. Symptoms can be mild to severe and can include symptoms of complications, such as hypotension and shock.
In anemia, there are a low number of red blood cells in the blood. Red blood cells contain the protein hemoglobin, which ...more symptoms »
Treatment plans for anemia are individualized depending on the underlying cause, the severity, the presence of coexisting diseases, the age of the patient, and other factors. Treatment involves a multifaceted plan that addresses the underlying cause, such as sickle cell disease or Vitamin B12 deficiency.
For example, iron deficiency anemia and ...more treatments »
Diagnosing anemia and its underlying cause may be delayed or missed because in some cases anemia develops gradually and the symptoms may not be severe enough for a person to seek medical care. In addition, some people may believe that some symptoms of anemia, such as confusion, dizziness, and falls, are a normal part of aging. Mild symptoms may also be attributed to such ...more misdiagnosis »
Symptoms of Anemia
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symptoms of Anemia
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Types of Anemia
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Anemia: Undiagnosed Conditions
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Misdiagnosis and Anemia
Unnecessary hysterectomies due to undiagnosed bleeding disorder in women: The bleeding disorder
called Von Willebrand's disease is quite common in women, but often fails to be correctly diagnosed.
Women with the condition...read more »
Anemia undiagnosed in pregnancy: The onset of anemia (low red blood cells) in pregnancy is sometimes overlooked,
despite it being a well-known complication of pregnancy.
The problem may...read more »
ADHD diagnosis overlooked hidden nutritional disorder: The book "A Dose of Sanity" reports on a case of a boy
diagnosed with ADHD and receiving Ritalin.
His symptoms included tiredness,...read more »
Cluster of diseases with difficult diagnosis issues: There is a well-known list of
medical conditions that are all somewhat difficult to...read more »
Rare type of breast cancer without a lump: There is a less common form
of breast cancer called inflammatory breast cancer.
Its symptoms can be an...read more »
Pituitary conditions often undiagnosed cause of symptoms: There are a variety of symptoms
that can be caused by a pituitary disorder (see ...read more »
Vitamin B12 deficiency under-diagnosed: The condition of Vitamin B12 deficiency
is a possible misdiagnosis of various conditions, such as multiple sclerosis (see symptoms of multiple sclerosis).
See...read more »
Read more about Misdiagnosis and Anemia
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Clinical Trials for Anemia
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Clinical Trials for Anemia
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Article Excerpts about Anemia
Anemia in Kidney Disease and Dialysis: NIDDK (Excerpt)
If your blood is low in red blood cells,
you have anemia. Red blood cells carry oxygen (O2) to tissues and organs throughout your
body and enable them to use the energy from food. Without oxygen,
these tissues and organs--particularly the heart and brain--may not
do their jobs as well as they should. For this reason, if you have
anemia, you may tire easily and look pale. Anemia may also
contribute to heart problems. (Source: excerpt from Anemia in Kidney Disease and Dialysis: NIDDK)
Kidney Failure Glossary: NIDDK (Excerpt)
The condition of
having too few red blood cells. Healthy red blood cells carry oxygen
throughout the body. If the blood is low on red blood cells, the
body does not get enough oxygen. People with anemia may be tired and
pale and may feel their heartbeat change. Anemia is common in people
renal failure or those on dialysis . (Source: excerpt from Kidney Failure Glossary: NIDDK)
Anemia: NWHIC (Excerpt)
Anemia is a process, not a disease, and is the most common disorder of
the blood. Anemia occurs when the amount of red blood cells or hemoglobin
(oxygen-carrying protein in the blood) in the blood becomes low, causing
the tissues of the body to be deprived of oxygen-rich blood. It is
characterized by a reduction in size, number, or color of red blood cells
(RBC) which results in reduced oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. The
blood of an anemic person has trouble carrying oxygen to tissues and
organs, in a sense, become "starved" of oxygen and without oxygen, the
tissues cannot produce energy to function. In order for the body to stay
healthy, organs and tissues need a steady supply of oxygen. (Source: excerpt from Anemia: NWHIC)
Definitions of Anemia:
A reduction in the number of red blood cells per cu mm, the amount of hemoglobin in 100 ml of blood, and the volume of packed red blood cells per 100 ml of blood. Clinically, anemia represents a reduction in the oxygen-transporting capacity of a designated volume of blood, resulting from an imbalance between blood loss (through hemorrhage or hemolysis) and blood production. Signs and symptoms of anemia may include pallor of the skin and mucous membranes, shortness of breath, palpitations of the heart, soft systolic murmurs, lethargy, and fatigability. --2004
- (Source - Diseases Database)
A deficiency of red blood cells
- (Source - WordNet 2.1)
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