Red blood cells are also known as erythrocytes, and are one among the other types of blood cells manufactured by the body (white blood cells and platelets). The red blood cells (RBC) do the work of carrying the life-giving oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body, and then bring back carbon dioxide to the lungs so that it can be exhaled. Now for the red blood cells to perform this transportation, what they require is known as hemoglobin (a protein that gives blood its color). The body requires iron, folate, vitamin B12 and other nutrients from food sources, in order to manufacture enough red blood cells, and hemoglobin. However, due to nutrient deficiency or some underlying medical conditions, the body becomes unable to do so. This condition is known as anemia.
Factors Behind Anemia
There are three basic reasons why anemia sets in. First reason may be the inability of the body to make enough RBCs, bleeding that causes the loss of the red blood cells to be faster than they can be replaced, and the destruction of the cells by the body itself. Now all these situations have different kinds of triggers, which have been listed as follows:
- The first trigger or the cause is iron deficiency in the body. This is known as iron-deficiency anemia.
- The second one is one that is caused when the body lacks a proper supply of vitamin B12 and folate. These nutrients help the body to absorb iron from the food you eat.
- Conditions such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, and other kinds of chronic inflammatory diseases, are also responsible for reducing the production of red blood cells.
- In some cases, the bone marrow becomes unable to produce enough red blood cells. Although rare, it is life-threatening in nature. This is known as aplastic anemia.
- Other causes are sickle-cell anemia, thalassemia (defective hemoglobin), and hemolytic anemia (occurs when red blood cells are destroyed faster than they can be replaced.
What Symptoms are Typical of Anemia?
Depending upon the causes mentioned above, the symptoms may vary greatly from person to person. The general symptoms that are usually observed in people with anemia include:
- Intense fatigue
- Heart Arrhythmia
- Skin going pale
- Hands and feet being cold at most times
- Breath shortness, which may be accompanied by chest pain.
- Brittle nails
- Dizziness is also common
- The patient might also experience cognitive problems.
- Reduced libido
- Abnormal color of the stool
Doctors determine what has caused the condition, before beginning the treatment. If the cause is low iron in the body, then the patient is recommended to take supplements. Including high iron foods is also an essential treatment method. Likewise, for the anemia caused by a vitamin deficiency, folic acid supplements and vitamin B12 are prescribed as the treatment options. Those types which are caused by chronic conditions such as cancer or AIDS, do not have any specific treatment. The doctors may only try to ease the symptoms.
The above mentioned anemia symptoms are the general ones that are observed in most cases. There might be a wide variation in these, depending upon the cause. This is because these symptoms may be worsened by the symptoms of the underlying cause itself.