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Health Condition

Anemia

About This Condition

Anemia is a general term for a category of blood conditions that affect the red blood cells or the oxygen-carrying hemoglobin they contain.

In anemia, there is either a reduction in the number of red blood cells in circulation or a decrease in the amount or quality of hemoglobin. There are many causes of anemia, including severe blood loss, genetic disorders, and serious diseases. (See iron-deficiency anemia, pernicious anemia [vitamin B12–related], and sickle cell anemia.) Anyone with unexplained anemia should have the cause determined by a qualified doctor.

Some athletes appear to have anemia when their blood is tested, but this may be a normal adaptation to the stress of exercise,1 which does not need treatment. Further evaluation by a qualified doctor is necessary.

Symptoms

Some common symptoms of anemia include fatigue, lethargy, weakness, poor concentration, and frequent colds. A peculiar symptom of iron-deficiency anemia, called pica, is the desire to eat unusual things, such as ice, clay, cardboard, paint, or starch. Advanced anemia may also result in lightheadedness, headaches, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), irritability, pale skin, unpleasant sensations in the legs with an uncontrollable urge to move them, and getting out of breath easily.

Other Therapies

Blood transfusions may be required to treat severe anemia.

References

1. Smith JA. Exercise, training and red blood cell turnover. Sports Med 1995;19:9-31 [review].

2. Little DR. Ambulatory management of common forms of anemia. Am Fam Physician 1999;59:1598-604 [review].

3. Hodges RE, Sauberlich HE, Canham JE, et al. Hematopoietic studies in vitamin A deficiency. Am J Clin Nutr 1978;31:876-85 [review].

4. Bloem MW. Interdependence of vitamin A and iron: an important association for programmes of anaemia control. Proc Nutr Soc 1995;54:501-8 [review].

5. Lane M, Alfrey CP. The anemia of human riboflavin deficiency. Blood 1965;25:432-42.

6. Orehek AJ, Kollas CD. Refractory postpartum anemia due to vitamin B6 deficiency. Ann Intern Med 1997;126(10):834-5 [letter].

7. Iwama H, Iwase O, Hayashi S, et al. Macrocytic anemia with anisocytosis due to alcohol abuse and vitamin B6 deficiency. Rinsho Ketsueki 1998;39:1127-30 [in Japanese].

8. Hirschmann JV, Raugi GJ. Adult scurvy. J Am Acad Dermatol 1999;41:895-906 [review].

9. Summerfield AL, Steinberg FU, Gonzalez JG. Morphologic findings in bone marrow precursor cells in zinc-induced copper deficiency anemia. Am J Clin Pathol 1992;97:665-8.

10. Freycon F, Pouyau G. Rare nutritional deficiency anemia: deficiency of copper and vitamin E. Sem Hop 1983;59:488-93 [review] [in French].

11. Borgna-Pignatti C, Marradi P, Pinelli L, et al. Thiamine-responsive anemia in DIDMOAD syndrome. J Pediatr 1989;114:405-10.

12. Neufeld EJ, Mandel H, Raz T, et al. Localization of the gene for thiamine-responsive megaloblastic anemia syndrome, on the long arm of chromosome 1, by homozygosity mapping. Am J Hum Genet 1997;61:1335-41.

13. Little DR. Ambulatory management of common forms of anemia. Am Fam Physician 1999;59:1598-604 [review].

14. Hodges RE, Sauberlich HE, Canham JE, et al. Hematopoietic studies in vitamin A deficiency. Am J Clin Nutr 1978;31:876-85 [review].

15. Bloem MW. Interdependence of vitamin A and iron: an important association for programmes of anaemia control. Proc Nutr Soc 1995;54:501-8 [review].

16. Lane M, Alfrey CP. The anemia of human riboflavin deficiency. Blood 1965;25:432-42.

17. Orehek AJ, Kollas CD. Refractory postpartum anemia due to vitamin B6 deficiency. Ann Intern Med 1997;126(10):834-5 [letter].

18. Iwama H, Iwase O, Hayashi S, et al. Macrocytic anemia with anisocytosis due to alcohol abuse and vitamin B6 deficiency. Rinsho Ketsueki 1998;39:1127-30 [in Japanese].

19. Hirschmann JV, Raugi GJ. Adult scurvy. J Am Acad Dermatol 1999;41:895-906 [review].

20. Summerfield AL, Steinberg FU, Gonzalez JG. Morphologic findings in bone marrow precursor cells in zinc-induced copper deficiency anemia. Am J Clin Pathol 1992;97:665-8.

21. Freycon F, Pouyau G. Rare nutritional deficiency anemia: deficiency of copper and vitamin E. Sem Hop 1983;59:488-93 [review] [in French].

22. Borgna-Pignatti C, Marradi P, Pinelli L, et al. Thiamine-responsive anemia in DIDMOAD syndrome. J Pediatr 1989;114:405-10.

23. Neufeld EJ, Mandel H, Raz T, et al. Localization of the gene for thiamine-responsive megaloblastic anemia syndrome, on the long arm of chromosome 1, by homozygosity mapping. Am J Hum Genet 1997;61:1335-41.

24. Little DR. Ambulatory management of common forms of anemia. Am Fam Physician 1999;59:1598-604 [review].

25. Hodges RE, Sauberlich HE, Canham JE, et al. Hematopoietic studies in vitamin A deficiency. Am J Clin Nutr 1978;31:876-85 [review].

26. Bloem MW. Interdependence of vitamin A and iron: an important association for programmes of anaemia control. Proc Nutr Soc 1995;54:501-8 [review].

27. Lane M, Alfrey CP. The anemia of human riboflavin deficiency. Blood 1965;25:432-42.

28. Orehek AJ, Kollas CD. Refractory postpartum anemia due to vitamin B6 deficiency. Ann Intern Med 1997;126(10):834-5 [letter].

29. Iwama H, Iwase O, Hayashi S, et al. Macrocytic anemia with anisocytosis due to alcohol abuse and vitamin B6 deficiency. Rinsho Ketsueki 1998;39:1127-30 [in Japanese].

30. Hirschmann JV, Raugi GJ. Adult scurvy. J Am Acad Dermatol 1999;41:895-906 [review].

31. Summerfield AL, Steinberg FU, Gonzalez JG. Morphologic findings in bone marrow precursor cells in zinc-induced copper deficiency anemia. Am J Clin Pathol 1992;97:665-8.

32. Freycon F, Pouyau G. Rare nutritional deficiency anemia: deficiency of copper and vitamin E. Sem Hop 1983;59:488-93 [review] [in French].

33. Borgna-Pignatti C, Marradi P, Pinelli L, et al. Thiamine-responsive anemia in DIDMOAD syndrome. J Pediatr 1989;114:405-10.

34. Neufeld EJ, Mandel H, Raz T, et al. Localization of the gene for thiamine-responsive megaloblastic anemia syndrome, on the long arm of chromosome 1, by homozygosity mapping. Am J Hum Genet 1997;61:1335-41.

35. Mino M. Clinical uses and abuses of vitamin E in children. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med 1992;200:266-70 [review].

36. Swann IL, Kendra JR. Anaemia, vitamin E deficiency and failure to thrive in an infant. Clin Lab Haematol 1998;20:61-3.

37. Hafez M, Amar ES, Zedan M, et al. Improved erythrocyte survival with combined vitamin E and selenium therapy in children with glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency and mild chronic hemolysis. J Pediatr 1986;108:558-61.

38. Corash L, Spielberg S, Bartsocas C, et al. Reduced chronic hemolysis during high-dose vitamin E administration in Mediterranean-type glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency. N Engl J Med 1980;303:416-20.

39. Eldamhougy S, Elhelw Z, Yamamah G, et al. The vitamin E status among glucose-6 phosphate dehydrogenase deficient patients and effectiveness of oral vitamin E. Int J Vitam Nutr Res 1988;58:184-8.

40. Ono K. Reduction of osmotic haemolysis and anaemia by high dose vitamin E supplementation in regular haemodialysis patients. Proc Eur Dial Transplant Assoc Eur Ren Assoc 1985;21:296-9.

41. Ono K. Effects of large dose vitamin E supplementation on anemia in hemodialysis patients. Nephron 1985;40:440-5.

42. Mino M. Clinical uses and abuses of vitamin E in children. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med 1992;200:266-70 [review].

43. Swann IL, Kendra JR. Anaemia, vitamin E deficiency and failure to thrive in an infant. Clin Lab Haematol 1998;20:61-3.

44. Hafez M, Amar ES, Zedan M, et al. Improved erythrocyte survival with combined vitamin E and selenium therapy in children with glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency and mild chronic hemolysis. J Pediatr 1986;108:558-61.

45. Corash L, Spielberg S, Bartsocas C, et al. Reduced chronic hemolysis during high-dose vitamin E administration in Mediterranean-type glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency. N Engl J Med 1980;303:416-20.

46. Eldamhougy S, Elhelw Z, Yamamah G, et al. The vitamin E status among glucose-6 phosphate dehydrogenase deficient patients and effectiveness of oral vitamin E. Int J Vitam Nutr Res 1988;58:184-8.

47. Ono K. Reduction of osmotic haemolysis and anaemia by high dose vitamin E supplementation in regular haemodialysis patients. Proc Eur Dial Transplant Assoc Eur Ren Assoc 1985;21:296-9.

48. Ono K. Effects of large dose vitamin E supplementation on anemia in hemodialysis patients. Nephron 1985;40:440-5.

49. Little DR. Ambulatory management of common forms of anemia. Am Fam Physician 1999;59:1598-604 [review].

50. Hodges RE, Sauberlich HE, Canham JE, et al. Hematopoietic studies in vitamin A deficiency. Am J Clin Nutr 1978;31:876-85 [review].

51. Bloem MW. Interdependence of vitamin A and iron: an important association for programmes of anaemia control. Proc Nutr Soc 1995;54:501-8 [review].

52. Lane M, Alfrey CP. The anemia of human riboflavin deficiency. Blood 1965;25:432-42.

53. Orehek AJ, Kollas CD. Refractory postpartum anemia due to vitamin B6 deficiency. Ann Intern Med 1997;126(10):834-5 [letter].

54. Iwama H, Iwase O, Hayashi S, et al. Macrocytic anemia with anisocytosis due to alcohol abuse and vitamin B6 deficiency. Rinsho Ketsueki 1998;39:1127-30 [in Japanese].

55. Hirschmann JV, Raugi GJ. Adult scurvy. J Am Acad Dermatol 1999;41:895-906 [review].

56. Summerfield AL, Steinberg FU, Gonzalez JG. Morphologic findings in bone marrow precursor cells in zinc-induced copper deficiency anemia. Am J Clin Pathol 1992;97:665-8.

57. Freycon F, Pouyau G. Rare nutritional deficiency anemia: deficiency of copper and vitamin E. Sem Hop 1983;59:488-93 [review] [in French].

58. Borgna-Pignatti C, Marradi P, Pinelli L, et al. Thiamine-responsive anemia in DIDMOAD syndrome. J Pediatr 1989;114:405-10.

59. Neufeld EJ, Mandel H, Raz T, et al. Localization of the gene for thiamine-responsive megaloblastic anemia syndrome, on the long arm of chromosome 1, by homozygosity mapping. Am J Hum Genet 1997;61:1335-41.

60. Yuyama LKO, Dias RR, Nagahama D, et al. Acai ( Euterpe oleracea Mart.) and camu-camu (Myrciaria dubia (H.B.K.) Mc Vaugh), do they possess anti-anemic action? Acta Amazonica2002;32:625-33.

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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2018.