Anemia is a condition that occurs when a person’s red blood cell count, or the quantity of a blood substance called hemoglobin, is lower than normal. Red blood cells are necessary to carry oxygen from the lungs to all the other parts of the body. People with anemia commonly feel weak and tired. They may also have trouble concentrating or experience shortness of breath with exercise. There are many causes of anemia, but your doctor may only choose to use specialty medications to treat anemia due to certain conditions such as chronic kidney disease.
A sample of blood is taken, usually from a vein in your arm, and is sent to a laboratory for testing.
- Complete blood count (CBC). A CBC is used to count the number of blood cells in a sample of your blood.
- A test to determine the size and shape of your red blood cells.Some of your red blood cells may also be examined for unusual size, shape and color.
If you receive a diagnosis of anemia, additional tests may be ordered to determine the underlying cause. For example, iron deficiency anemia can result from chronic bleeding of ulcers, benign polyps in the colon, colon cancer, tumors or kidney problems.
Occasionally, it may be necessary to study a sample of your bone marrow to diagnose anemia.
Anemia treatment depends on the cause. It is very important to follow your doctor’s instructions and not skip any medication. To learn more about anemia medications, treatment and ongoing management of the disease, please read the information below.
- Iron deficiency anemia. Treatment for this form of anemia usually involves taking iron supplements and making changes to your diet.
If the underlying cause of iron deficiency is loss of blood — other than from menstruation — the source of the bleeding must be located and stopped. This may involve surgery.
- Vitamin deficiency anemias.Treatment for folic acid and B-12 deficiency involves dietary supplements and increasing these nutrients in your diet.
If your digestive system has trouble absorbing vitamin B-12 from the food you eat, you may need vitamin B-12 shots. At first, you may receive the shots every other day. Eventually, you’ll need shots just once a month, which may continue for life, depending on your situation.
- Anemia of chronic disease.There’s no specific treatment for this type of anemia. Doctors focus on treating the underlying disease. If symptoms become severe, a blood transfusion or injections of synthetic erythropoietin, a hormone normally produced by your kidneys, may help stimulate red blood cell production and ease fatigue.
- Aplastic anemia.Treatment for this anemia may include blood transfusions to boost levels of red blood cells. You may need a bone marrow transplant if your bone marrow is diseased and can’t make healthy blood cells.
- Anemias associated with bone marrow disease.Treatment of these various diseases can include medication, chemotherapy or bone marrow transplantation.
- Hemolytic anemias. Managing hemolytic anemias includes avoiding suspect medications, treating related infections and taking drugs that suppress your immune system, which may be attacking your red blood cells.
Depending on the severity of your anemia, a blood transfusion or plasmapheresis may be necessary. Plasmapheresis is a type of blood-filtering procedure. In certain cases, removal of the spleen can be helpful.
- Sickle cell anemia. Treatment for this anemia may include the administration of oxygen, pain-relieving drugs, and oral and intravenous fluids to reduce pain and prevent complications. Doctors also may recommend blood transfusions, folic acid supplements and antibiotics.
A bone marrow transplant may be an effective treatment in some circumstances.
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- 20 Aug 2018
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