What is anemia?
“Anemia” (uh-NEE-mee-uh) occurs when you have less than the normal number of red blood cells in your blood or when the red blood cells in your blood don’t have enough hemoglobin (HEE-muh-gloh-bin). Hemoglobin is a protein. It gives the red color to your blood. Its main job is to carry oxygen from your lungs to all parts of your body. If you have anemia, your blood does not carry enough oxygen to all the parts of your body. Without oxygen, your organs and tissues cannot work as well as they should. More than 3 million people in the United States have anemia. Women and people with chronic diseases are at the greatest risk for anemia.
Anemia occurs when the number of red blood cells, or the amount of hemoglobin in the blood, drops, limiting the amount of oxygen the blood can carry. As a result, the amount of oxygen available to the cells in the body also decreases. Without adequate oxygen, cell building and repair slows, as does muscular activity and other functions.
Anemia refers to a red blood cell count that is below normal. While white blood cells fight infection, red blood cells are responsible for transporting oxygen throughout the body. When red blood cell levels drop too low, the body feels tired due to lack of oxygen. Hence, someone with anemia is often referred to as having “tired blood.” Various factors can cause anemia, including blood loss, iron deficiency, poor diet, disease, and reactions to medications like chemotherapy, to name but a few. To treat anemia a doctor must first learn the cause. Anemia can be mild or severe, temporary or chronic. In the worst-case scenario, anemia can create a serious oxygen deficiency in bodily organs that can lead to heart attack. Symptoms might start off as almost unnoticeable, but increase as the condition worsens. A person suffering from anemia might notice some or all of the following symptoms: • Paleness • Tiring quickly or easily • Dizziness • Pains in the chest • Cold hands and feet • Confusion