Pronounced: ah-KNEE-me-ahEn Español (Spanish Version)
Anemia is a low level of healthy red blood cells (RBC). 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. This can cause symptoms such as fatigue, pale skin, or irregular heartbeat.
There are several specific types of anemia, including:
- Anemia of chronic disease —chronic diseases can slow the production of RBCs
- Aplastic anemia —bone marrow is not able to produce enough RBCs
- Iron-deficiency anemia —iron is a building block of hemoglobin
- Macrocytic B12 deficient anemia and pernicious anemia —B12 is a building block of RBCs
- Sickle cell anemia —RBCs have an abnormal shape that causes destruction of RBCs and low levels of hemoglobin
Red Blood Cells
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The main causes of anemia are:
Blood loss, such as that caused by:
- Heavy menstrual periods
- Bleeding in the digestive tract
- Bleeding in the urinary tract
- Abnormally low RBC production, due to:
Abnormally high RBC destruction, caused by inherited disorders such as:
- Sickle cell anemia
- Thalassemia —difficulty in manufacturing hemoglobin
- Enzyme deficiencies
Last reviewedNovember 2012by Kari Kassir, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.