What is anemia?
Anemia is a common blood disorder that occurs when there are fewer red blood cells than normal, and there is not enough hemoglobin transported to supply the body:
Hematocrit. The measurement of the percentage of red blood cells found in a specific volume of blood.
Anemia is often a symptom of a disease rather than a disease itself. Anemia usually develops due to the presence of one of the following:
Excessive blood loss or hemorrhaging
Deficient production of red blood cells
Excessive red blood cell destruction
Both decreased production and excessive destruction of red blood cells
Sequestration (the pooling of red cells in the spleen, an organ in your abdomen that helps fight infections)
What are the symptoms of anemia?
Most symptoms of anemia are a result of the decrease of oxygen in the cells or hypoxia. Because red blood cells, as hemoglobin, carry oxygen, a decreased production or number of these cells result in hypoxia. Many of the symptoms will not be present with mild anemia as the body can often compensate for gradual changes in hemoglobin.
The following are the most common symptoms for anemia:
Abnormal paleness or lack of color of the skin
Increased heart rate
Breathlessness, or difficulty catching a breath
Lack of energy, or tiring easily (fatigue)
Dizziness, or vertigo, especially when standing
Irregular menstruation cycles
Absent or delayed menstruation
Sore or swollen tongue
Jaundice, or yellowing of skin, eyes, and mouth
Enlarged spleen or liver (splenomegaly, hepatomegaly)
Slow or delayed growth and development
Impaired wound and tissue healing
The symptoms of anemia may look like other blood disorders or medical problems. Because anemia is often a symptom associated with another disease, it is important for your child’s doctor to be aware of symptoms he or she may be experiencing. Always consult your child’s doctor for a diagnosis.
What causes anemia?
Generally, anemia may be caused by several problems, including the following:
What are the different types of anemia?
Iron deficiency anemia
Megaloblastic (pernicious) anemia
Sickle cell anemia
Cooley’s anemia (thalassemia)
How is anemia diagnosed?
Anemia may be suspected on a complete medical history and physical exam of your child, such as complaints of tiring easily, pale skin and lips, shortness of breath, or a fast heartbeat. Anemia is usually discovered during a medical exam through blood tests that measure the concentration of hemoglobin and the number of red blood cells.
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, other tests may include:
Additional blood tests
Bone marrow aspiration and/or biopsy. A procedure that involves taking a small amount of bone marrow fluid (aspiration) and/or solid bone marrow tissue (called a core biopsy), usually from the hip bones, to be examined for the number, size, and maturity of blood cells and/or abnormal cells.
Treatments for anemia
Your child’s health care provider will figure out the best treatment based on:
How old your child is
His or her overall health and medical history
How sick he or she is
How well your child can handle specific medications, procedures, or therapies
How long the condition is expected to last
Your opinion or preference
Anemia can be difficult to treat and may include:
Vitamin and mineral supplements
Change in your child’s diet
Medication and/or discontinuing causative medications
Treatment of the causative disorder
Surgery to remove spleen (if related to hemolytic anemia)
Blood transfusions, if necessary (to replace significant loss)
Antibiotics (if infection is causative agent)
Bone marrow transplant (for aplastic anemia)
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