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Anemia affects millions of people in the United States each year. It is a blood condition that occurs when you dont have adequate amounts of red blood cells in your blood. This means your body is not getting enough oxygen. This is what leads to one of the main symptoms of anemia: fatigue. There are different types of anemia, with each having their own causes, symptoms and treatments. However, the most common type of anemia is due to iron deficiency, which requires supplements and dietary changes. Anemia is not a serious condition in most cases, but its important to pay close attention to the signs and symptoms of the condition and get proper treatment after a visit to a doctor.

Causes, Risk Factors and Complications of Anemia

Anemia can be caused by your body not producing enough red blood cells or destroying the healthy red blood cells you already have. Iron deficiency anemia is caused by not having enough iron in your body. Vitamin deficiency anemia is from lack of other vitamins specifically vitamin B12 and folate. There is also anemia caused by chronic diseases such as HIV or AIDS, cancer, Crohns disease or rheumatoid arthritis. The rarest type of anemia, aplastic anemia, is caused by drugs, autoimmune diseases and infections. Risk factors for anemia include being pregnant, going through menstruating, not having a healthy diet with vitamins and minerals, having a family history of anemia or a chronic condition. Anemia could cause a number of complications including extreme fatigue, cardiovascular problems such as an irregular heartbeat and even death.

Signs, Symptoms and Tests of Anemia

Many people have a mild form of anemia and dont realize they have it. Others will show some tell-tale symptoms like fatigue, irritability, hands and feet feeling cold, feeling weak, having frequent headaches, lightheadedness, brittle nails, confusion, shortness of breath or pale skin color. Diagnosing anemia requires a blood test to check your hemoglobin level and red blood count, a physical examination to look for a heart murmur, low blood pressure or rapid heart rate and other tests to determine the type of anemia. If you show any of these signs, consult your doctor to get a diagnosis and start treatment. You may find out it is as simple as replacing the missing vitamins in your diet, which is a common course of treatment for anemia.

Treatment, Drugs and Prevention of Anemia

The type and cause of anemia will determine what treatment is best. Common treatments include taking iron or vitamin supplements for vitamin deficiency, blood transfusions, taking a corticosteroid medication, injections of erythropoietin (if caused by a chronic disease) and changing your diet. Procedures such as stem cell transplant or surgery may also be required. To prevent anemia, the best course of action is to eat a diet rich in vitamins and nutrients especially folate, Vitamin B12 and iron. Foods that are high in iron include: lentils, liver, oysters, iron-fortified cereal and bread, tofu, red meat, green, leafy vegetables and dried fruit. You should also avoid caffeine when eating meals. Not getting enough calcium also affects the bodys ability to absorb iron. Other types of anemia such as sickle-cell anemia which is inherited cant be prevented, but treatment is effective.