Anemia means that you have lesser hemoglobin [a protein in red blood cells (RBCs) that carries oxygen] or fewer RBCs than normal. This causes less oxygen to reach your cells. As a result, you may feel weak and get tired easily.
This oxygen requirement depends on age, sex, altitude, smoking, and pregnancy status. The normal level of hemoglobin is:
1. Men: 13.8 to 17.2 g/dL of blood
2. Women: 12 to 15 g/dL of blood
Causes and Risk Factors
There are many causes of anemia:
1. Taking a diet poor in iron, vitamin B12 or folic acid
2. Conditions that interfere with absorption of vitamin B12, such as parasitic infections, HIV disease, Crohn’s disease
3. Heavy menstrual bleeding
4. Blood disorders such as thalassemia or sickle cell anemia
5. Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency that causes anemia when exposed to certain food, medicines, infections, or stress
6. Problems with the bone marrow that may be caused due to certain medications, or cancer treatment or may be present since birth.
7. Stomach ulcers, hemorrhoids, gastritis, cancer
Depending on what causes anemia, it is classified as:
1. Iron — deficiency anemia
2. Megaloblastic anemia caused by deficiency of vitamin B12 and/or folate.
3. Pernicious anemia caused by poor absorption of vitamin B12 by the intestines.
4. Aplastic anemia caused by failure of the bone marrow to make sufficient RBCs.
5. Hemolytic anemia caused by triggers such as fava beans that cause abnormal destruction of RBCs.
6. Sickle cell anemia that is inherited from parents and causes deformed (sickle shaped) RBCs that cannot carry enough oxygen.
Signs and Symptoms
Common symptoms of anemia include:
2. Fatigue (tiredness)
4. Shortness of breath
5. Paleness of skin or yellowish skin
6. Chest pain
7. Irregular heartbeats