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Anemia

Anemia stands for 'without blood' in Greek; When the number of red blood cells (RBC) falls below normal, Anemia is a resultant condition. Hemoglobin is an important constituent of RBC. Hemoglobin usually occurs in the range of 12 and 18 g/dL (grams per deciliter of blood). If the hemoglobin levels show a decrease, anemic conditions set in. Consequently, the various organs and tissues of the body do not receive adequate oxygen on account of the diminished oxygen carrying capacity of the blood. This impairs their normal functioning. Usually women have smaller stores of iron than men. Besides, they also lose blood during menstruation making them primary targets for anemia.

Red Blood Cells

World Health Organization (WHO) defines anemia as a hemoglobin level lower than 13 g/dL in men and lower than 12 g/dL in women. It is essential to be familiar with the typical symptoms of anemia. Often anemia is misdiagnosed and left untreated. An anemic person is likely to feel extremely tired and weak. This is accompanied with dizziness and breathlessness. A person suffering from anemia tends to appear pale and experience feelings of depression. In some cases, anemia can lead to heart ailments too.

Causes of Anemia


  • Serious disease or infection such as hookworm infection, bleeding piles, esophageal var ices and peptic ulcers.
  • Hemorrhagic - Excessive blood loss due to surgery, menstruation or injury.
  • Genetic defects lead to sickle cell anemia, Thalassemia anemia and aplastic anemia.
  • Hemolytic - Excessive intravascular blood destruction where red blood cells are destroyed prematurely.

Types of Anemia

Iron deficiency Anemia - Nearly 20% adult women tend to suffer from this form of anemia. Loss of blood due to menstruation is not compensated with an iron-rich diet. Pregnancy and breast feeding can also deplete iron stores. Iron deficiency anemia is also noticed during growth spurts or internal bleeding.


Aplastic anemia - When the bone marrow does not produce sufficient quantities of blood cells, aplastic anemia is noticed. Childhood cancers such as leukemia are often responsible for this form of anemia. Other possible causes of aplastic anemia are radiation, cancer or antiseizure medications and chronic diseases such as thyroid or kidney malfunction. Treatment for aplastic anemia involves blood transfusions and bone marrow transplant. This is done to replace malfunctioning cells with healthy ones.


Vitamin deficiency anemia - Low levels of folic acid lead to faulty absorption of iron. Anemia caused due to folic acid deficiency is called Megaloblastic anemia. Pregnancy doubles the body requirements of folic acid and it is imperative that pregnant women take folic acid supplements. Good dietary sources of folate are fresh fruits, green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, liver and kidney, dairy products and whole grain cereals. Vegetables should be eaten raw or lightly cooked.Folic acid anemia is also a common problem faced by alcoholics. Vitamin B-12 deficiency can lead to a condition of Pernicious anemia. Diseases such as thyroid malfunction or diabetes mellitus can affect the body's ability to absorb vitamin B-12. This vitamin is vital in the production of hemoglobin.

Vitamin C Deficiency Anemia is a rare form of Anemia that is the result of small red cells owing to prolonged dietary deficiency of the Vitamin C.


Sideroblastic Anemia: In this anemia, the body has sufficient iron but it fails to incorporate it into hemoglobin.


Hemolytic Anemia results from high rate of destruction of Red Blood Cells (RBC) at a rate faster than the rate bone marrow can replenish them.


Thalassemia anemia - Thalassemia or Cooleys Disease is a hereditary disorder found predominantly in people of South East Asian, Greek and Italian racial groups. This form of anemia is seen in differing degrees as Thalassemia encompasses a group of related disorders that affect the human body in similar ways. The most common occurrences of Thalassemia are alpha and beta thalassemia. Thalassemia anemia is characterized by symptoms like jaundice, enlarged spleen, shortness of breath and facial bone deformities.


Diagnosing Anemia

A complete blood count test will test for hemoglobin levels and display an anemic condition. But often anemia is a symptom whose cause lies deeper. The cause and type of anemia will determine the treatment that is needed. A stool test will help in detecting occult blood. Hemoglobin electrophoresis is a blood test that helps identify abnormal hemoglobins. Diagnosing thalassemia or sickle cell anemia becomes possible with this test.

Treating Anemia

Deficiency can be treated with supplements of iron, Vitamin B-12 and Vitamin C. Partaking an iron-rich diet can be beneficial for those suffering from nutritional deficiency anemia. Seafood, nuts, whole grains and dried fruits such as raisins, prunes and apricots are rich in iron. Ensure adequate consumption of Vitamin C as it aids and stimulates iron absorption. Try and combine citrus foods with iron-rich foods - add tomatoes to a turkey sandwich or chopped strawberries with iron-fortified breakfast cereals.

MCV blood test

MCV (Mean Corpuscular Volume) blood test measures the size of RBC. It is a measure of the average volume of a red blood cell by dividing the hematocrit by the RBC. Any change in the size of RBC indicates certain disorders. This test is often conducted along with RDW blood test. With MCV blood test, RBCs can be categorized into normal, small or large sizes. Larger cells are usually indicative of macrocytic anemia. On the other hand, those with small cells may suffer microcytic anemia. Larger RBCs may indicate liver disease, hypothyroidism, folic acid or vitamin B12 deficiency or marrow aplasia. Decreased size of red blood cells is usually noticed in persons suffering from anemia, thalassemia, lead poisoning or chronic renal failure.


MCV Blood test range

MCV blood test is done using electrical impedance or light deflection. The MCV values are considered as significant and reliable in the clinical correlation of a disease. The standard reference value for MCV is 80-100 femolitres. The reference range varies from person to person depending on the age group. In children the reference range for MCV is given in three categories:

For Newborns (95 to 121 fl)
For Infants and Toddlers (76- 86 fl)
For Teenagers (boys: 78- 98 fl and girls 78-102fl)
For Adults 98fl

The MCV in association with underlying anemic conditions is determined by the following mathematical formulae: MCV = 10 X (packed cell volume / RBC count)


Mentzer index

Mentzer index is mathematically expressed as MCV / RBC count. The Mentzer index value determines conditions such as thalassemia when the ratio is less than 13 and it indicates iron deficiency anemia when the ratio is greater than 13.


Splenectomy

Splenectomy or spleen removal surgery is resorted only when there is no other choice but to remove the infected or damaged spleen. Splenectomy is also resorted to in case of cancers involving the spleen such as leukemia or Hodgin lymphoma, severe lupus or blood disorders such as sickle cell disease or thalassemia. Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura is a blood disorder that often necessitates spleen removal. Splenectomy can be done in traditional open style or by laparoscopic method. The spleen functions include making antibodies and removing antibody-coated blood cells. So a Splenectomy leaves a person with a compromised immune system. Post spleen removal, patients are at higher risk for infections and blood vessel complications. Antibiotic prophylaxis and yearly vaccines are prescribed.


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Collection of Pages - Last revised Date: October 17, 2017