Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have adequate healthy red blood cells or your red blood cells don’t work as they should. Your red blood cells contain hemoglobin, the iron-infused protein that connects to oxygen and then delivers it throughout your body.
Anemia occurs in many forms, but the most common types include iron-deficiency anemia and vitamin B-12 deficiency (pernicious) anemia. Both can cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms, and they may lead to serious health issues.
The most common cause of iron-deficiency anemia is chronic gastrointestinal bleeding, and the most common causes of pernicious anemia include a weakened stomach lining and autoimmune illness.
What are the symptoms of anemia?
Anemia symptoms commonly include:
- Chest pain
- Cold extremities
- Difficulty breathing
- Pale or yellowish complexion
- Irregular heartbeat
If you have anemia, your symptoms may range from nonexistent to severe. Occasionally someone with undiagnosed anemia will try to donate blood and be denied because of low hemoglobin.
How is anemia diagnosed?
Anemia diagnosis requires a simple complete blood count (CBC) blood test. This test checks the number of blood cells in your blood, particularly on the red blood cells and hemoglobin levels. Anemia diagnosis occurs when you have a blood test with a hemoglobin level of less than 13.5 hm/dl (for men) or less than 12.0 gm/dl (for women).
How is anemia treated?
Proper anemia treatment involves finding the root cause of your anemia and then addressing that specific issue. Treatment may include medication, minimally invasive endoscopic treatments, or blood transfusions, in the most severe cases.
Patients may need iron supplements for iron deficiency anemia and vitamin B12 injections to correct pernicious anemia.