Anemia Types

Overview

There are many possible causes of anemia, ranging from diet to injuries to other forms of blood loss. No matter the case, the precise causes of anemia can be difficult to diagnose, so if basic treatments are unsuccessful and if blood tests provide limited insight, additional levels of testing may be necessary to identify any underlying conditions.

Some sources predict that nearly one-half of the world's population will experience symptoms of anemia at some point for some reason or another. A number of conditions and factors can cause symptoms of anemia to develop and become worse. The types of anemia are related to the shape of the blood cells, levels of iron in the blood, diet, nutrient deficiency, and underlying medical problems. There are more than 400 types of anemia, so it is difficult to identify the precise cause without diagnostic testing.

Overall, anemia occurs because the red blood cells are unable to transport oxygen from the lungs to the body tissue. This problem can occur because of red blood cell deficiency or because of low hemoglobin levels. Hemoglobin is the protein within the blood cells that is responsible for binding to and transporting oxygen. Anemia can also occur because of cell shape and size. Sickle-cell anemia is an example of a genetic condition that causes anemia because of abnormal cell shape.

Cell Shape and Size

Certain conditions cause the red blood cells to become abnormal in size and shape. In some cases, abnormal cells result from a genetic condition such as sickle-cell disease, which causes the red blood cells to become narrow and stiff.

Sickle-cell disease is a condition that is common among populations in tropical areas or Sub Saharan Africa, where malaria is present. The sickle-cell gene actually protects people against malaria. People who inherit only one sickle-cell gene will experience few complications and will naturally protected against the symptoms of malaria. People who inherit two sickle-cell genes may suffer from complications that include extreme anemia. Sickle-cell disease can lower a person's lifespan: on average, people with sickle-cell disease do not live beyond the age of 50. Many people with sickle-cell anemia will require lifelong treatment, monitoring, and care from a doctor.

Other conditions can cause red blood cells to become irregularly shaped. Cells might become abnormally small, abnormally large, or warped. These situations occur as a result of problems with the bone marrow. For example, the bone marrow might produce red blood cells that are too large. If a blood test reveals that the red blood cells are abnormal in size, then your doctor may choose to follow up with a bone marrow biopsy or aspiration.

Blood Loss

A person can develop anemia after an injury or while menstruating. Loss of blood will deplete the levels of iron in the bloodstream. This type of anemia tends to occur very suddenly, especially in the case or an accident or sudden injury. If you find yourself in a situation where you are rapidly losing blood, you should try to stop or slow the blood as much as possible until you find help. If you lose too much blood, then you may need a transfusion.

Iron Deficiency

Some people develop anemia when they do not consume enough nutrients that are rich in iron. Without enough iron, the body cannot produce enough hemoglobin, and anemia develops as a result. Iron deficiency may also occur among people who do not produce enough red blood cells. Without enough iron, the body will need to work harder to pump oxygen to the tissue, resulting in varying levels of fatigue.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency

This type of anemia is called pernicious anemia and occurs when the body is unable to absorb a sufficient amount of vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is necessary for red blood cell production, and a person with pernicious anemia is likely to develop vision problems, problems concentrating, and numbness in the limps.

Folic Acid Deficiency

Folic acid is required for the blood and nervous system. Pregnant women, especially, are likely to develop a folic acid deficiency due to anemia.

Thalassemia

This type of anemia results from a genetic mutation. There are certain genes that are responsible for hemoglobin production. With thalassemia, these genes become damaged or mutated. The condition is frequently present at birth, and symptoms include dark urine, physical deformities, exhaustion, jaundice, weakness, and stunted growth. The condition is hereditary.

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