Anemia stands for 'without blood' in Greek; When the number of red blood cells (RBC) falls below normal, Anemia is a resultant condition. Hemoglobin is an important constituent of RBC. Hemoglobin usually occurs in the range of 12 and 18 g/dL (grams per deciliter of blood). If the hemoglobin levels show a decrease, anemic conditions set in. Consequently, the various organs and tissues of the body do not receive adequate oxygen on account of the diminished oxygen carrying capacity of the blood. This impairs their normal functioning. Usually women have smaller stores of iron than men. Besides, they also lose blood during menstruation making them primary targets for anemia.
World Health Organization (WHO) defines anemia as a hemoglobin level lower than 13 g/dL in men and lower than 12 g/dL in women. It is essential to be familiar with the typical symptoms of anemia. Often anemia is misdiagnosed and left untreated. An anemic person is likely to feel extremely tired and weak. This is accompanied with dizziness and breathlessness. A person suffering from anemia tends to appear pale and experience feelings of depression. In some cases, anemia can lead to heart ailments too.
Causes of Anemia
- Serious disease or infection such as hookworm infection, bleeding piles, esophageal var ices and peptic ulcers.
- Hemorrhagic - Excessive blood loss due to surgery, menstruation or injury.
- Genetic defects lead to sickle cell anemia, Thalassemia anemia and aplastic anemia.
- Hemolytic - Excessive intravascular blood destruction where red blood cells are destroyed prematurely.
Types of Anemia
Iron deficiency Anemia - Nearly 20% adult women tend to suffer from this form of anemia. Loss of blood due to menstruation is not compensated with an iron-rich diet. Pregnancy and breast feeding can also deplete iron stores. Iron deficiency anemia is also noticed during growth spurts or internal bleeding.
Aplastic anemia - When the bone marrow does not produce sufficient quantities of blood cells, aplastic anemia is noticed. Childhood cancers such as leukemia are often responsible for this form of anemia. Other possible causes of aplastic anemia are radiation, cancer or antiseizure medications and chronic diseases such as thyroid or kidney malfunction. Treatment for aplastic anemia involves blood transfusions and bone marrow transplant. This is done to replace malfunctioning cells with healthy ones.
Vitamin deficiency anemia - Low levels of folic acid lead to faulty absorption of iron. Anemia caused due to folic acid deficiency is called Megaloblastic anemia. Pregnancy doubles the body requirements of folic acid and it is imperative that pregnant women take folic acid supplements. Good dietary sources of folate are fresh fruits, green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, liver and kidney, dairy products and whole grain cereals. Vegetables should be eaten raw or lightly cooked.Folic acid anemia is also a common problem faced by alcoholics. Vitamin B-12 deficiency can lead to a condition of Pernicious anemia. Diseases such as thyroid malfunction or diabetes mellitus can affect the body's ability to absorb vitamin B-12. This vitamin is vital in the production of hemoglobin.
Vitamin C Deficiency Anemia is a rare form of Anemia that is the result of small red cells owing to prolonged dietary deficiency of the Vitamin C.
Sideroblastic Anemia: In this anemia, the body has sufficient iron but it fails to incorporate it into hemoglobin.
Hemolytic Anemia results from high rate of destruction of Red Blood Cells (RBC) at a rate faster than the rate bone marrow can replenish them.
Thalassemia anemia - Thalassemia or Cooleys Disease is a hereditary disorder found predominantly in people of South East Asian, Greek and Italian racial groups. This form of anemia is seen in differing degrees as Thalassemia encompasses a group of related disorders that affect the human body in similar ways. The most common occurrences of Thalassemia are alpha and beta thalassemia. Thalassemia anemia is characterized by symptoms like jaundice, enlarged spleen, shortness of breath and facial bone deformities.
A complete blood count test will test for hemoglobin levels and display an anemic condition. But often anemia is a symptom whose cause lies deeper. The cause and type of anemia will determine the treatment that is needed. A stool test will help in detecting occult blood. Hemoglobin electrophoresis is a blood test that helps identify abnormal hemoglobins. Diagnosing thalassemia or sickle cell anemia becomes possible with this test.
Deficiency can be treated with supplements of iron, Vitamin B-12 and Vitamin C. Partaking an iron-rich diet can be beneficial for those suffering from nutritional deficiency anemia. Seafood, nuts, whole grains and dried fruits such as raisins, prunes and apricots are rich in iron. Ensure adequate consumption of Vitamin C as it aids and stimulates iron absorption. Try and combine citrus foods with iron-rich foods - add tomatoes to a turkey sandwich or chopped strawberries with iron-fortified breakfast cereals.
Sickle Cell Anemia
Sickle cell anemia is a hereditary condition characterized by destruction of red blood cells in the body. It is noticed that sickle cell anemia affects people of African ancestry and those of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern descent. The soft round red blood cells develop an abnormal shape that resembles a sickle or crescent moon. Their shape stops them from flowing easily and they get clogged up inside smaller blood vessels. This stops the blood from flowing properly. Important organs like the brain, heart, or kidneys need constant blood flow to stay healthy. Although our body attacks and destroys these sickle cells, it can't make new blood cells fast enough to replace the older ones. This results in the decrease in number of red blood cells leading to anemia. Sickle cell anemia is generally caused by genetic defects or disease. A child with sickle cell anemia has inherited a defective hemoglobin gene.
Sickle shaped blood cells get stuck within the small blood vessels and obstruct blood flow to some parts of the body, thereby leading to pain. Symptoms of sickle cell anemia include fatigue, breathlessness, rapid heart rate, delayed growth and puberty, susceptibility to infections, excessive penis pain, chest pain and decreased fertility. Since the spleen is damaged by the sickle cells, the resistance to infections is reduced considerably. Hands and feet tend to swell (Hand-foot syndrome) and the body faces stunted growth. Retinal damage can occur due to the obstruction of blood flow to the eyes. In about 10% of the cases, a stroke can occur if the sickle cells block blood vessels in the brain. Acute chest syndrome is another complication of this form of anemia. In this condition, the patient suffers symptoms similar to pneumonia and will need to be treated in a hospital.
There is no cure for sickle cell anemia but treatment can be followed to prevent complications and improve the quality of life of the patient. The patient will need to be under the guidance and care of a hematologist or genetic counselor. Blood test for hemoglobin 5 gives an indication as to the presence of this disease. A microscopic analysis of a blood sample will exhibit the distinctly shaped sickle cells. Bone marrow transplant can offer potential cure for this form of anemia, provided the right donor is found. Red blood cells from a donor can be given intravenously to a patient. But it carries inherent risks. Penicillin is given to keep young affected kids from life-threatening infections. Painkillers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen can relieve the pain associated with sickle cell anemia. Children diagnosed with sickle cell anemia must be given regular childhood vaccinations as well as Hib (Hemophilus Influenzae B) vaccine and the pneumococcal vaccine.
Interestingly, in anthropology, a child's parietal fragments, excavated from some 1.5 million year old sediments in Tanzania reveal Porotic Hyperostosis, a pathology associated with anemia. The presence of this condition is evidence that past population suffered from chronic or episodic malnutrition, and subsequently a sub-discipline pale-nutrition has focused on the presence of Porotic Hyperostosis among other nutritional disorders.
Otherwise known as Osteoporosis Symmetrica, Cribra Crani, Hyperostosis spongiosa, and symmetrical osteoporosis, Porotic Hyperostosis is a medical disorder that affects the bones of the cranial vault. It is characterized by spongy or porous bone tissue. As the spongy tissue swells due to overgrowth, the tissue on the outer surface becomes thinner and more porous and begins to move. The spongy marrow could be seen in the skull's bones that become overgrown or in other bones as well.
Several studies vouch that Porotic Hyperostosis is caused by iron deficiency anemia and malnutrition. While anemia is accepted as the leading cause of this phenomenon, this is typically due to iron deficient diet. A study conducted in certain parts of the world indicated that the incidence was higher in people who had a low iron diet as compared to those who had an iron rich diet. There is also evidence that increased loss along with over-production of red blood cells (RBCs) as is seen in Hemolytic Anemia and Megaloblastic Anemia is the cause of Porotic Hyperostosis.
Weakness or lethargy either with rest or exercise, frequent headaches, problems with concentration or thinking, and a general feeling of grumpiness are some of the pertinent signs of Porotic Hyperostosis.
An imaging study of the cranial area can reveal the presence of soft bones in the cranial vault. Blood tests, which can reveal the presence of iron deficiency anemia along with other factors suggestive of malnutrition can aid diagnosis.
Due to excessive acidic content in the diet, there is accumulation of acidic waste in the body and this causes weak bones. Hence it is imperative a healthy and balanced diet with acidic and alkaline mix is maintained. Avoid foods containing synthetic chemicals like processed foods which cause damage to bones. Carbonated beverages should be avoided as much as possible. It is important to be careful with Osteoporotic medications as they can have significant side effects in the long run.
- This is an extremely rare disease and the consequence of progression is quite unknown.
- This is similar to those suffering from osteoporosis and thus a person with Porotic Hyperostosis is prone to fractures.
- As bones in the body weaken due to accumulation of acid water, it is essential that you maintain the required pH in the body. Ensure that the diet includes some foods from the alkalizing list instead of the acidifying list.
- Since synthetically processed foods can damage your bones, buy food products after reading their nutrition labels.
- Drink natural fruit juices and avoid carbonated drinks.
- It is good to go in for some weight bearing exercises such as jogging or walking.