Anemia is a condition characterized by a deficiency of red blood cells, or of hemoglobin, in the blood. Hemoglobin is a protein located in red blood cells, which allows red blood cells to carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the human body. Anemia diminishes the capacity of the blood to carry oxygen. The element iron is needed to manufacture hemoglobin. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe. The main causes of anemia are bleeding, hemolysis (excessive destruction of red blood cells), underproduction of red blood cells, and underproduction of normal hemoglobin.
The seven most common types of anemia are…
Iron deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia. It accounts for approximately 50-percent of the diagnosed cases of anemia. Iron deficiency anemia can result from inadequate iron intake, decreased iron absorption, increased iron demand, or increased iron loss. Symptoms of iron deficiency anemia may include fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, headache, and pica (unusual cravings for substances with no nutritional value such as ice, dirt, or starch).
Blood tests such as a complete blood count (CBC) and serum ferritin level are useful for the diagnosis of iron deficiency anemia. A CBC can help determine red blood cell size, hematocrit (percentage of blood volume made up by red blood cells), and hemoglobin. Ferritin reflects iron stores and is the most accurate test to diagnose iron deficiency anemia. All of these blood tests would be decreased in iron deficiency anemia. Iron deficiency anemia is treated with iron supplementation.