Doctor explains causes of anemia

Blood is made up of many different cells, including red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Anemia is a condition in which the number of red blood cells in the blood are lower than normal.

Red blood cells are disc-shaped cells and look like doughnuts without a hole. They contain an iron-rich protein called hemoglobin that gives the red color to the cells.

Red cells are made in the bone marrow, which is a sponge-like tissue inside the bones. Red blood cells carry oxygen all over the body. Symptoms of anemia – caused by a drop in red cells – include fatigue, headache, dizziness, shortness of breath, cold hands and feet, pale or yellow skin and chest pain.

Anemia can be caused by three main causes: blood loss, decreased red cell production of the bone marrow and increased destruction of the red cells. All these can be caused by disease, medications or other factors.

Blood loss: Blood loss is the most common cause of iron deficiency anemia. Common causes of blood loss are heavy menstrual periods in women, bleeding from the digestive or urinary tract or from surgery.

Lack of red blood cell production: A diet lacking iron, B12 or folic acid and/or lack of absorption of these vitamins is a cause.

Hormones: Low thyroid hormone or kidney disease.

High rates of red blood cells destruction can be caused by an acquired or inherited condition.

One example of an acquired condition is an enlarged spleen. The spleen is an organ that removes the dying blood cells from the body. If it is enlarged, it may remove normal red cells, causing anemia.

Examples of inherited conditions are sickle cell anemia and thalassemia.

People who have poor diet, intestinal disorders, chronic diseases, injections and menstruating and pregnant women are at risk of developing anemia.

Many cases of anemia are mild and easily treated with proper diet plus vitamin and iron supplements. However, certain anemia are severe and life-threatening and need to be diagnosed and treated promptly. If you have any signs or symptoms of anemia, see your doctor to find out if you have this condition.

Talk to your health care provider, if you have questions or concerns.

Renu Soni, MD, is a hematologist/oncologist, providing care and treatment for patients at ProMedica Fostoria Community Hospital Cancer and Infusion Center