What Is Anemia?
Anemia (uh-NEE-me-eh) is a condition in which your
blood has a lower than normal number of red blood cells. This condition also
can occur if your red blood cells dont contain enough hemoglobin
(HEE-muh-glow-bin). Hemoglobin is an iron-rich protein that gives blood its red
color. This protein helps red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to the
rest of the body.
If you have anemia, your body doesnt get
enough oxygen-rich blood. As a result, you may feel tired and have other
symptoms. With severe or long-lasting anemia, the lack of oxygen in the blood
can damage the heart, brain, and other organs of the body. Very severe anemia
may even cause death.
Red blood cells are disc-shaped and look like
doughnuts without holes in the center. They carry oxygen and remove carbon
dioxide (a waste product) from your body. These cells are made in the bone
marrowa sponge-like tissue inside the bones. Red blood cells live for
about 120 days in the bloodstream and then die.
White blood cells and platelets (PLATE-lets) also
are made in the bone marrow. White blood cells help fight infection. Platelets
stick together to seal small cuts or breaks on the blood vessel walls and stop
bleeding. With some types of anemia, you may have low numbers of all three
types of blood cells.
Anemia has three main causes: blood loss, lack of
red blood cell production, or high rates of red blood cell destruction. These
causes may be due to a number of diseases, conditions, or other factors.
Many types of anemia can be mild, short term, and
easily treated. Some types can even be prevented with a healthy diet. Other
types can be treated with dietary supplements.
However, certain types of anemia may be severe, long
lasting, and life threatening if not diagnosed and treated.
If you have signs and symptoms of anemia, you should
see your doctor to find out whether you have the condition. Treatment will
depend on what has caused the anemia and how severe it is.