Anemia - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

By: Juliet Cohen

Anemia is a condition where there is a lower than normal number of red blood cells in the blood, usually measured by a decrease in the amount of hemoglobin. " It is a common problem for cancer patients and often results from the therapies used to suppress or control tumors. Anemia is associated with fatigue - a feeling of weakness or diminished physical and mental capacity unrelieved by rest (fatigue). Additional symptoms include diminished ability to perform daily functions and possibly impaired cognitive function, headache, dizziness, chest pain and shortness of breath, nausea, depression and occasionally pain. These symptoms are often complicated by coexisting disease(s).There are many compromises that are necessary when one has symptomatic anemia. This can affect the tolerability of therapy. Anemia is also associated with a poorer prognosis and increased mortality. Anemia is a common blood disorder. Women and people with chronic diseases are at increased risk of the condition. If you suspect you have anemia, see your doctor. Anemia can be a sign of serious illnesses. Treatments for anemia range from taking supplements to undergoing medical procedures. Although there are over 400 different forms of anemia, this health profile will only address the three most common: iron-deficiency anemia, vitamin B12 anemia and folic acid deficiency. Anemias can also be caused by such conditions as external bleeding, chronic disease, pregnancy , alcoholism, bleeding disorders, infection and hereditary conditions

Causes of Anemia

Except for the acute form, anemia is a result of systemic toxemia and acidosis-a condition of poisons, toxins and accumulated waste products floating in the blood - and lymph-streams, and of enervation or lowered nerve-tone. There is either an accumulation of these injurious substances due to failure of eliminative organs to handle a normal amount of such products, or they are produced in such considerable quantities that even normal organs, eliminating a normal amount or more than a normal amount of eliminations can not remove them rapidly enough. They have the effect of poisoning the organs that make the blood cells, which produce a deficient amount of blood cells or altered blood cells.

Symptoms of Anemia

Anemia goes undetected in many people, and symptoms can be vague. Most commonly, people with anemia report a feeling of weakness or fatigue, general malaise and sometimes a poor concentration. People with more severe anemia often report dyspnea (shortness of breath) on exertion. Very severe anemia prompts the body to compensate by increasing cardiac output , leading to palpitations and sweatiness, and to heart failure . Other useful signs are cheilosis and koilonychia .

Treatment of Anemia

Treatment should be directed at the cause of the anemia. In some cases, blood transfusions and the medication erythropoietin will correct anemia. For example, treatment for sickle cell anemia is different than treatment for a diet low in iron or folic acid. Talk to your HCP about the best treatment for the cause of your anemia. Other Treatment Injectable EPO (e.g., PROCRIT®, EPOGEN®) is an alternative to blood transfusion to treat critically ill patients with anemia. Exogenous EPO is identical to the natural hormone in its role of stimulating the bone marrow to produce red blood cells. EPO has been used safely in many clinical settings, including chronic renal failure, oncology, and surgery. In the ICU, use of EPO has been shown to reduce the amount of blood transfused by almost 50%, at the same time significantly increasing hemoglobin levels.

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