The Common Types Of Anemia Explained

Anemia is one of the most common medical conditions in the United States, but also one of the most treatable.

Anemia is not a disease - it is a symptom of other medical conditions, diseases or complications of medial treatment. The medical definition explains anemia as a "decrease in hemoglobin in the blood to levels below the normal range; may be caused by a decrease in red cell production, increased red cell production or blood loss."

There are several different types of anemia. Most are very rare but others are both known and common among various populations. The most common types of anemia are: aplastic, iron deficiency, sickle cell and trauma related or blood loss anemia. As anemia is a disorder of the blood, the diagnosis remains the same in all types. Diagnosis of anemia is done by collecting a blood sample from the patient which is then sent to a laboratory where testing of blood cells, blood cell counts and a visual inspection of the cells is completed. However, as each type of anemia has it's own cause, the signs, symptoms and treatments of various types will differ.

Aplastic anemia is a blood disorder caused by the destruction of the bone marrow by outside factors such as chemical agents, medical treatments or physical factors. These factors include arsenic, nitrogen, x-rays, chemotherapy and other sources of ionizing radiation. These outside factors will cause the bone marrow to slow or suppress the production of red blood cells. Signs and symptoms of aplastic anemia are pallor of skin, fingernail beds and mucous membranes, weakness, fatigue, dizziness, headache, drowsiness, increase heart rate and heart palpitations, chest pain, gastrointestinal disturbance, loss of libido and a consistent slight fever. Treatment for aplastic anemia will consist of replacement therapy to supplement the bone marrow's inability to produce red blood cells including vitamin B12, iron and folic acid in addition to altering the chemical agent that is causing the anemia. In severe cases, a blood transfusion may be deemed necessary for immediate relief.

Iron deficiency anemia results when the body has a greater demand for iron - the building blocks of red blood cells - than what is stored or available. It is the most common type of anemia as is estimated to affect approximately 18 million people in the US. Iron deficiency anemia is caused by an inadequate iron intake, the body's inability to absorb iron from the diet, chronic blood loss, pregnancy or lactation or a combination of these factors. The signs and symptoms of iron deficiency anemia include pale skin, fingernail beds and mucous membranes, fatigue, headache, weakness, dizziness, heart palpitations or heart rate fluctuations, tremors, numbness of extremities - especially fingers and toes, drowsiness, gastrointestinal disturbances, loss of libido and dry mouth. Treatment of iron deficiency anemia is fairly simple. With proper diet, which includes an adequate amount of iron rich foods, used in combination with an iron supplement, the signs and symptoms of this type of anemia will diminish quickly.

Sickle cell anemia is a serious blood disorder that occurs primarily in the African-American population but also has high occurrence rates in other Mediterranean and black populations. Sickle cell anemia is a hereditary chronic condition that is characterized by the red blood cells taking a crescent - or sickle - shape. It is caused by the presence of an abnormal type of hemoglobin in the red blood cells and is passed via genetic factors from parents to children. The signs and symptoms of sickle cell vary from patient to patient depending upon the severity of the disorder. These signs and symptoms can be painful and often times life threatening. Sickle cell crisis - when the sickled or malformed cells interfere with oxygen transport, obstruct capillary blood flow and cause fever and sever pain in the joint and the abdomen - can occur with no warning and with unknown cause. Due to this, it is very important to have medial intervention immediately if/when sickle cell anemia is suspected. Treatment of sickle cell anemia includes supplemental iron and blood transfusions in combination with supportive and genetic counseling. Currently, there is no standard treatment for sickle cell anemia - as well as no cure - but research continues in a quest to find a viable treatment for those who suffer.

Trauma related or blood loss anemia is anemia due to the body losing a large amount of red blood cells at one time - such as in a trauma where quantities of blood is lost through injury. The cause of blood loss anemia is due to the body's inability to transfer oxygen or nutrients to the organs without the presence of red blood cells. When a large amount of red blood cells are lost, the body will compensate by access any and all reserves of iron and nutrients in the body, causing anemia. Signs and symptoms of blood loss anemia include rapid onset of pale, moist skin, fingernail beds and mucous membranes, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, gastrointestinal dysfunction, weakness, rapid heart beat, heart palpations, chest pain, increased respiratory rate, rapid onset of fever and evidence of blood loss either externally or internally. Treatment of blood loss anemia includes immediate measures to stop bleeding - both internally and externally, restoring blood volume with transfusion and fluids, taking precautionary measures to prevent the onset of shock and maintenance with iron supplements.

As anemia is one of the most common medical disorders in the US, information is vast and varied. If anemia - regardless of the type - is suspected, seek medical attention and intervention immediately.

© High Speed Ventures 2011