What Is Anemia?
Anemia is a condition that is characterized by an insufficiency of red blood cells. When a person experiences anemia, their red blood cells cannot carry enough oxygen throughout their body. This causes fatigue and other symptoms because every cell in the body needs oxygen in order to function properly. Most cases of anemia are reversible, though some are life-long conditions. Keep reading for anemia facts that can help you understand this condition.
What Are The 3 Main Causes Of Anemia?
The 3 main causes of anemia are nutritional deficiency, genetics, and blood loss.
1. Nutrition Deficiency Anemia
Iron-deficiency anemia is the most common form of nutrient-deficiency anemia. This mineral is used in the formation of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries transports oxygen. Many diets that include little-to-no meat foods are linked to a higher risk of anemia, because animal-sourced Iron is more bioavailable and easier for the body to use. While plants can contain Iron, it is never heme-iron and therefore, people who get all of their Iron from plant sources require a greater intake of iron than meat-eaters. Anemia supplements with Iron that is gentle on the stomach can be an easy way to boost Iron levels.
Vitamin-deficiency anemia is the second form of nutrient-deficiency anemia. It can be caused by insufficient Vitamin B12, Folate, or Vitamin A. Vitamin B12 and Folate play a role in the maturation of red blood cells and their ability to carry oxygen. Vitamin A is also important for healthy red blood cells, as it helps with their growth and function. When any of these nutrients are lacking, red blood cells cannot properly form and anemia can result.
Certain genetic conditions can also cause anemia. Sickle Cell Anemia is a common type of anemia caused by a gene mutation that affects the structure of hemoglobin in red blood cells. This mutation results in sickle-shaped red blood cells, which have a shorter life span than regular red blood cells, leading to anemia. Thalassemia is another type of anemia caused by inherited genetic mutations that affect the production of hemoglobin.
3. Blood Loss
Anemia can also be caused by blood loss, either through major trauma, bleeding in the digestive tract, or heavy menstruation. Blood loss naturally decreases red blood cells and can lead to anemia. In cases of extreme blood loss, anemia can occur quickly and become severe.
What Does Anemia Do To A Person?
Anemia can have a range of effects on the body, depending on its severity. In mild cases, it can cause feelings of fatigue, weakness, and poor concentration. It can also cause pale skin, headaches, and dizziness. More serious cases can lead to rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, and chest pain (1). If left untreated, anemia can become life-threatening due to the decrease in oxygen-carrying red blood cells.
In addition to physical symptoms, anemia, especially iron-deficiency anemia, can also take a toll on a person’s mental health. There is a link between iron-deficiency anemia and depression (2), likely due to the roles iron plays in the body. However, the lack of energy and motivation may be discouraging for some and lead to mood disturbances.
How Is Anemia Treated?
The treatment for anemia depends on its cause. For example, nutrient-deficiency anemia is treated by ensuring that the body receives the nutrients that it needs. Depending on the severity of the nutrient deficiency, this could be as easy as making diet changes to increase your intake of the necessary nutrients or taking a supplement for anemia. When it comes to genetic anemia, treatments often include medications, blood transfusions, or even stem cell transplants to restore the bone marrow that creates blood cells. Lastly, anemia from blood loss is often treated by replenishing fluids and nutrients so that the body can continue to produce blood cells and make up for the loss. At the end of the day, treating anemia should be done under the guidance of a qualified medical professional.
Your Takeaway – 5 Fast Anemia Facts
- Anemia is the name given to a condition of having insufficient red blood cells.
- The 3 main causes of anemia are nutritional deficiency, genetics, and blood loss.
- Iron-deficiency anemia is the most common form of anemia.
- Anemia causes feelings of fatigue and weakness.
- In most cases, anemia can be treated.