Anemia is a low level of healthy red blood cells (RBCs). RBCs carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. When red blood cells are low, the body does not get enough oxygen.
There are several specific types of anemia, including:
Red Blood Cells
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The main causes of anemia are:
Anemia is more common in woman and those who are pregnant. It is also more common in older adults who are sick or infants less than 2 years old.
Other factors that may increase the risk of anemia include:
Anemia may cause:
You will be asked about your symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. Blood tests will show how many RBCs there are and if they are healthy. Other tests may be needed to look for causes.
The goal of treatment is to increase healthy RBCs. The exact steps will depend on the cause. Treating the underlying cause may relieve some anemia. Other steps that may help to increase RBCs include:
A diet rich in iron and vitamins may help to prevent some types of anemia.
Iron Disorders Institute
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Canadian Blood Services
Anemia in Adults - Approach to the Patient. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/approach-to/anemia-in-adults-approach-to-the-patient. Accessed February 7, 2021.
Anemia of Inflammation. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/anemia-of-inflammation/. Accessed February 7, 2021.
Explore anemia. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/anemia. Accessed February 7, 2021.
Iron Deficiency Anemia in Adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/anemia-of-inflammation/. Accessed February 7, 2021.
Vieth JT, Lane DR. Anemia. Hematol Oncol Clin North Am. 2017 Dec;31(6):1045-1060.
Last reviewed February 2021 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 2/21/2021