Understanding anemia and its basic types

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Anaemia or anemia is the most common blood condition in the United States, afflicting millions of people across gender and age groups. While some forms of anemia are hereditary and infants may be afflicted from their very birth, other forms emerge from chronic diseases and deficiencies.

Anemia meaning

Our blood contains various types of cells- Red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets etc. Red blood cells are an important component of the blood- the hemoglobin contained in red blood cells binds oxygen and helps to carry oxygen to cells across the body. In doing so, it provides the cells with the necessary energy to carry out their tasks. Anemia is a condition in which the blood is found to be lacking in the required amount of red blood cells or hemoglobin, so that the cells in the body no longer get enough oxygen required to function appropriately. Fatigue, one of the most common anemia symptoms is a direct outcome of this non-availability of enough oxygen, as a result of which your cells tire out quickly.

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Anemia causes

Anemia can occur when there red blood cells are not produced properly or there is a decrease in the production of red blood cells itself. It can also occur if there is an abnormal destruction of red blood cells. Certain conditions such as menstruation, childbirth etc. that lead to a lot of blood loss can also cause anemia.

Anemia types

While anemia can be of hundreds of different types, a broader classification on the basis of cause helps us to zero in on three types of anemia- anemia caused by blood loss, anemia caused by an abnormal production of red blood cells and anemia caused by destruction of red blood cells.

Anemia caused by blood loss

Often, there can be slow loss of blood over a period of time, that goes undetected. Natural conditions like menstruation and childbirth are some examples. Medical conditions that lead to blood loss over time include ulcers, gastritis and cancer and even the use of certain drugs that can trigger these conditions.

Anemia caused by abnormal production of red blood cells

Sometimes due to genetic defects, the red blood cells may become crescent shaped and break down easily, obstructing the normal supply of oxygen to organs. This condition is known as sickle cell anemia and is seen to mostly affect African-Americans. Other aberrations in the production or proper functioning of red blood cells may occur from deficiency of iron or certain vitamins (elements that are essential for the red blood cells to function normally). In fact iron deficiency anemia is one of the common forms of anemia that can strike vegetarians or pregnant and breastfeeding mothers easily. Similarly deficiency of vitamin b12 and folate can also cause anemia. Thalassemia is a blood condition that is more common in people of Mediterranean, African, Middle Eastern and Souteast Asian origins, where the red blood cells don’t mature and grow normally.

Anemia caused by destruction of red blood cells

When red blood cells become too delicate and fragile to withstand the routine rigor of the circulatory system, they may give way causing hemolytic anemia. Destruction of red blood cells can take place either due to conditions such as sickle cell anemia or thalassemia or due to various infections, medicines and disease toxins.

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