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 don’t 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 doesn’t 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
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.
You may be able to prevent repeat episodes of some types of anemia, especially those caused by lack of iron or vitamins. Dietary changes or supplements can prevent these types of anemia from occurring again.
Treating the condition’s underlying cause may prevent anemia (or prevent repeat episodes). For example, if your doctor finds out that a medicine is causing your anemia, talk to him or her about other medicine options.
To prevent your anemia from becoming more severe, tell your doctor about all of your signs and symptoms. Discuss the tests you may need with your doctor and follow your treatment plan.
You can’t prevent some types of inherited anemia, such as sickle cell anemia. If you have an inherited anemia, talk to your doctor about treatment and ongoing care.
Low levels of vitamin B12 can lead to pernicious anemia. This type of anemia is often treated with vitamin B12 supplements.
Good food sources of vitamin B12 include:
- Breakfast cereals with added vitamin B12
- Meats such as beef, liver, poultry, fish, and shellfish
- Egg and dairy products (such as milk, yogurt, and cheese)
Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron. Good sources of vitamin C are vegetables and fruits, especially citrus fruits. Citrus fruits include oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, and similar fruits. Fresh and frozen fruits, vegetables, and juices usually have more vitamin C than canned ones.
If you’re taking medicines, ask your doctor or pharmacist whether you can eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice. This fruit can affect the strength of a few medicines and how well they work
Your doctor may prescribe medicines to increase the number of red blood cells your body makes or to treat an underlying cause of anemia. Some of these medicines include:
- Antibiotics to treat infections.
- Hormones to treat adult and teenaged women who have heavy menstrual bleeding.
- A man-made version of erythropoietin to stimulate your body to make more red blood cells. This hormone has some risks. You and your doctor will decide whether the benefits of this treatment outweigh the risks.
- Medicines to prevent the body’s immune system from destroying its own red blood cells