- 1 Signs and symptoms
- 2 Diagnosis
- 3 Classification
- 4 Causes
- 5 Treatments
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Saturday, January 8, 2011
(Aplastic, hemolytic, iron deficiency and pernicious anemias)
There are many forms of anemia, the most common blood disorder. All are marked by abnormalities in the number or function of red blood cells or erythrocytes. These blood cells get their red colour from hemoglobin, an iron rich substance that carries oxygen.
The prevalent cause of anemia are malnutrition, metabolic defects, certain drugs, environmental toxins, excessive blood loss and cancer and various other diseases.
Diagnostic Studies and Procedures
All types of anemia produce weakness and fatigue, skin pallor, shortness of breath and palpitations but accurate diagnosis requires blood analyses, starting with a complete blood count or CCBC, in which the various cells in a specific amount of blood are counted with the aid of a microscope. While counting the cells, a lab technician will also look for abnornalities in their shape, size, colour and distribution.
For some anemias, diagnosis also requires analysis of bone marrow, which is obtained by aspiration with a hollow needle. In the United States, the common types of anemia are:
Iron deficiency anemia, the most prevalent, results when the body lacks enough iron to make hemoglobin. This can be caused by inadequate diet, an intestinal disorder or excessive blood loss, usually through heavy menstrual periods or other chronic bleeding.
Aplastic anemia occurs when the bone marrow cannot make enough of certain blood cell-red, white or platelets even though the ones produced are generally normal. Possible causes of aplastic anemia are a hereditary defect or a thymus gland tumor. Exposure to radiation and certain chemicals, including arsenic, benzene and some pesticides, may be implicated as well as anticancer drugs and some antibiotic. The condition may also develop following infections with a number of viruses. In about half of all cases however, a cause cannot be found.
Folic acid deficiency anemia almost always results from a deficiency of this B vitamin, which is needed to make hemoglobin. This anemia is especially common in alcoholics; less often, it is due to an intestinal disorder.
Hemolytic anemia occurs when red blood cells are destroyed faster than the body can produce new ones. Sometimes this is due to an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the red blood cells.
Pernicious anemia is caused by a deficiency of vitamin B12, usually when the stomach fails to produce intrinsic factor, a substance needed to absorb the vitamin into the bloodstream.
Iron deficiency anemia responds generally to iron pills and an increased intake of iron-rich foods, especially liver and lean red meats. Other good sources of iron are whole grains, dark green vegetables and legumes because chemicals in certain foods inhibit iron absorption, they should not be taken at the same meal with iron-rich foods. Included are dairy products, nuts, tea and coffee. Citrus fruits on the other hand, enhance iron absorption. In severe cases of iron deficiency anemia, involving major blood loss, a transfusion may be necessary.
Aplastic anemia caused by radiation, drugs or industrial chemicals is treated with transfussion until the bone marrow can resume its normal function. In recent years, bone marrow transplantation in which the patient’s marrow is destroyed and replaced with healthy marrow from a donor, has cured some cases, especially in patients under age thirty (30). Another relatively new treatment consists of injections of equine antithymocyte globulin (ATG), a substance obtained from horse serum. This approach has helped about 60 percent of patients. Alternatively, cyclosporine – a drug that suppresses the immune system may be used.
Folic asid deficiency anemia is treated with vitamin supplements and an increased intake of organ meats, raw fruits and vegetables. If intestinal absorption is the problem, folic asid must be given by injection.
Hemolytic anemia caused by medication can be treated by withdrawing it. If an autoimmune disorder is at fault, corticosteroids or other drugs to suppress the immune system are prescribed. In some cases, removal of the spleen, which destroyed red blood cells, cures the problem. Transfusions are sometimes necessary.
Pernicious anemia is treated with vitamin B12 injections. Initially the shots are given at least weekly. As the body’s vitamin B12 stored are replenished, monthly injections suffice.
Anemia is a serious condition that does not lend itself to alternative therapies. In some cases, however, they maybe useful adjuncts to medical treatment.
Dandelion tea and wine are ancient herbal remedies for anemia, especially if it’s due to iron deficiency. Brewing the tea or wine in a cast-iron pot increases the iron content. Using cast iron cookware to prepare acidic foods such as tomato sauce also adds significant iron to the diet.
Self diagnosis and treatment of anemia are potentially dangerous. By all means, consume a healthful, balanced diet but don’t resort to taking iron pills and other supplements without consulting a doctor first. Too much iron damages the liver, heart and other organs.
Other Causes of Anemia
Genetic disorders such as sickle cell disease and cooley’s anemia can cause abnormal red cells. A severe infestation of hookworms or other intestinal parasite can lead to anemia.
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