What is Anemia?
Anemia is a deficiency of red blood cells or hemoglobin in the blood. The word anemia comes from two Greek roots, together meaning ?without blood.? At the beginning of the nineteenth century, ?anemia? referred to the pallor of the skin and mucous membranes. After medical science advanced, blood cell counts could be done. Anemia became the disease we know today.
Symptoms of Anemia
Mild anemia may have no outer symptoms. Weakness, fatigue, and pallor are very common symptom. Symptoms of severe anemia are shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, lightheadedness, headache, ringing in the ears, irritability, restless leg syndrome, mental confusion, dizziness, fainting, and dimmed vision.
Types of Anemia
Iron deficiency anemia- the most common type of anemia; occurs because of low iron levels.
Folic acid deficiency anemia- levels of folic acid are low because of inadequate dietary intake or faulty absorption.
Pernicious anemia- inability of the body to properly absorb vitamin B12.
Hemolytic anemia- red blood cells are destroyed prematurely.
Sickle cell anemia- inherited abnormality of hemoglobin; occurs mainly in people of African or Mediterranean decent.
Thalassemia anemia- inherited disorder in the synthesis of hemoglobin.
Aplastic anemia- decreased bone marrow production.
Diagnosis of Anemia
Determining the cause of anemia is very important because it may be the sign of a very serious illness. A physician should ask about family history of anemia, gallbladder disease, jaundice, and enlarged spleen. A stool test should be done and the physician should check for swollen lymph nodes, an enlarged spleen, and pallor. Laboratory tests can test both the numbers of red blood cells as well as look at their appearance.
Treatments of Anemia
Because there are so many different types of anemia as well as causes, treatments vary widely. If the type of anemia results from a vitamin deficiency and there is no underlying cause, treatment is simple. Vitamin supplements can be taken or a change in diet can be made. Transfusions and bone marrow transplants for some other types of anemia can be made. New drugs are currently being tested to help anemic patients.
Understanding Anemia by Ed Uthman, MD (from: http://www.neosoft.com/~uthman/unanemia/unanemia_ch1.html)