Anemia is more common in woman and woman 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:
Poor diet which is low in iron, vitamins, and minerals
Blood loss which may be due to periods, surgery, or injury
Chronic or serious illness
Family history of inherited anemia such as sickle cell anemia and thalassemia
Anemia may cause:
Shortness of breath
Coldness in the hands and feet
Rapid or irregular heartbeat
You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. 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:
Certain vitamins and minerals are needed to make red blood cells. Foods rich in iron, vitamin C, vitamin B12, and folate can help. Some people may need supplements if they can not get enough nutrients from food.
Medicine may help to increase the amount of RBCs the body can make.
A blood transfusion can quickly increase RBCs. The effect will not last if the cause of anemia is not treated.
RBCs are made in the bone marrow. Transplanting bone marrow or stem cells can help to grow new healthy bone marrow. This new marrow should be able to make healthy RBCs.
This procedure carries risk. It is only done in severe cases of anemia.
A diet rich in iron and vitamins may help to prevent some types of anemia.
Vieth JT, Lane DR. Anemia. Hematol Oncol Clin North Am. 2017 Dec;31(6):1045-1060.
Last reviewed September 2019 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 7/21/2020
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