Anemia: Types, Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Bajaj Finserv Health Team
November 23, 2020

There are many types of blood disorders that can affect the body, and all of these should be treated with some level of priority. Even something as common as anemia should be immediately diagnosed and treated at the earliest. This is because delaying treatment for anemia can lead to it increasing in severity and getting a lot deadlier as time progresses. To make matters worse, those affected with anemia are often unaware of it, as the early anemia symptoms are fairly easy to overlook. Being tired or feeling weak can easily be justified by countless other factors but, in actuality, these are signs of anemia.

Simply put, anemia is when the body’s red blood cell (RBC) count is low, which in turn affects blood oxygen levels. Without adequate supply of oxygen to the organs, there is improper functioning, which brings about the many symptoms of anemia. In many cases, anemia is caused by haemorrhaging or physical trauma of some form. The blood loss causes an iron deficiency (though there can be other reasons for iron deficiency anemia), which then develops into a form of anemia. Alternatively, anemia can also be genetic, and may result in abnormal haemoglobin production or a reduced life span of RBCs. There are many such nuances to the anemia disease, and given how common it is, being informed about can prove to be very helpful.

Here’s all you need to know about anemia.

What is anemia?

Anemia is a condition that occurs when the number of healthy red blood cells in the body are too low. This is a problem because the red blood cells are responsible for transporting oxygen to the different parts of the body. As such, a low RBC count would result in lower blood oxygen levels than normal. It is due to this lack of oxygen supply to the different organs and tissues that the symptoms of anemia occur.

Anemia is the most common blood disorder, with around 1/3 of the total population across the world exhibiting some form of the disease. Anemia is diagnosed when the haemoglobin levels are below 13.5 gram/100 ml for men and below 12.0 gram/100 ml for women. Haemoglobin is the protein in RBCs that carries oxygen to various organs and tissues.

Anemia types

When it comes to the classification of anemia, it can be done from 3 points of view. These are red cell morphology, clinical presentation, and pathogenesis. When classified based on clinical presentation, the disease is either acute or chronic anemia. By definition, acute anemia occurs when there is an unexpected or abrupt decline in red blood cells, whereas chronic anemia is when there is a gradual decline of RBCs brought on by nutrition deficiency, drugs, disease, or some other factor.

Based on these, there are several types of anemia and here are a few common ones to note.

  1. Iron deficiency anemia: This is the most common form of anemia and is caused by inadequate iron levels in the body. This can arise due to chronic blood loss or other factors, such as the inability to absorb iron, which can cause iron deficiency.
  2. Aplastic anemia: Caused by damaged bone marrow, which leaves it unable to produce enough RBCs.
  3. Hemolytic anemia: Caused when the body destroys RBCs faster than it can produce them. This can be inherited or developed at any point in life.
  4. Sickle cell anemia: Here, the abnormal sickle-shaped RBCs clog blood vessels, resulting in damage. This form of anemia is genetic.
  5. Vitamin deficiency anemia: A lack of vitamin B12 and folate leads to unhealthy RBCs. This affects production of RBCs, leading to anemia. Alternatively, an inability to properly absorb vitamin B12 can also lead to an anemia known as pernicious anemia.
  6. Diamond-Blackfan anemia: An extremely rare form of anemia in which the bone marrow has impaired function and doesn’t produce sufficient RBCs.

Anemia causes

While a few of the types of anemia are fairly self-explanatory and their cause is clear, there are also specific reasons behind others. To highlight a few, here are some common causes of anemia:

  • Colon cancer
  • Bleeding during surgery
  • Traumatic injury
  • Iron deficiency
  • Folate deficiency
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Kidney failure
  • Bone marrow replacement due to cancer
  • Suppression by chemotherapy medication
  • Abnormal haemoglobin levels
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Menstruation
  • Childbirth
  • Cirrhosis
  • Uterine bleeding
  • Endometriosis

Anemia symptoms

Besides appearing pale, there are several symptoms you may experience with anemia. Amongst the most common is feeling cold and overly fatigued. In addition to these symptoms, you may also experience the following:

  • Weakness
  • Chest pain
  • Headaches
  • Shortness of breath
  • Light-headedness
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Hair loss
  • Difficult concentrating
  • Fainting
  • Inflammation of the tongue
  • Brittle nails

These are among the more common symptoms, but as mentioned earlier, anemia may also be caused by an underlying chronic illness. In such cases, you may also show signs and symptoms characteristic to the particular illness alongside these. However, upon noticing the signs of anemia, such as fatigue, pale skin, and feeling cold, you should consult a specialist.

Anemia treatment

The first thing to note with anemia treatment is that it relies solely on the cause. So, doctors will only prescribe treatment based on the type of anemia. For instance, for anemia that is caused by insufficient iron on the body, nutritional supplementation is the most common approach. In addition to that, dietary changes are also very likely to be advised as the condition may be easily fixed by incorporating foods rich in iron.

However, in more severe cases of anemia, doctors may resort to erythropoietin injections or blood transfusions, based on whether you have a low haemoglobin count and other factors. Thankfully, common cases of anemia are typically treated with multivitamins and, for recovery, it is best that you get care as soon as possible, especially if your family has a history with the anemia disease.

When it comes to a health condition like anemia, prevention should a priority as some cases can be quite difficult to manage, and are even life threatening. However, there are over 400 different types of anemia, classified under heads such as microcytic hypochromic anemia. So, while a quick online search may advise you to up your iron intake, doing so without proper medical guidance is unadvisable as you run the risk of developing another complication. So, seeking medical care should be your first step towards fighting anemia, and this made much easier with the Bajaj Finserv Health app.

This online provision helps you get access to healthcare in a simple and easy manner. Using your smartphone, you can find the best doctors in your area, book appointments at their clinics online, and consult virtually over video. These features make remote care a reality, especially when physical visits aren’t possible. Additionally, the Bajaj Finserv Health app also has a ‘Health Vault’ feature that allows you to maintain digital patient records, track your vitals, and share this data with specialists, be it laboratories or doctors. To get started with the Bajaj Finserv Health app, download it from Google Play or the Apple App Store today!