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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.

MPV blood test

MPV (Mean platelet volume) blood test measures the average number of platelets in a volume of blood. When the average size of platelets rises, it can indicate risk of heart attacks or strokes. Lower than normal MPV may be caused by aplastic anemia or inflammatory bowel disease.


Fifth Disease

Fifth disease, also known as Erythema Infectiosum or Slapped Cheek Syndrome, is a viral infection caused by parvovirus B19 that leads to a rash on the cheeks, arms, and legs. It is known as fifth disease as Parvovirus infection is one of the five common illnesses that develop with red rash during childhood. It is most common in children between the age group of 5 and 15 and usually occurs in winter and spring. Fifth disease usually is a mild illness. It is contagious and spreads through direct contact with fluids or mucus from the nose or mouth of an infected person. Though rare, adults can also become infected with virus and develop fifth disease. However, the symptoms and the severity of the disease vary between children and adults.


Symptoms

The symptoms of fifth disease almost resemble flu with mild fever, headache, cough runny nose and muscle ache. Stomach related symptoms like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea may also develop in due course. These symptoms subside after 3 or 4 days and only then the red rash will start to surface, initially on the cheek and later spreading to arms, chest and even legs. The rash has a lace like pattern at the time of fading. At this stage, the disease is no longer contagious and the child can be allowed to attend school or day care. In adults, fifth disease also gives rise to joint pains, but this is very uncommon in children. The incubation period for fifth disease ranges from 4 to 28 days and the rash usually lasts for 1 to 3 weeks. Normally fifth disease is diagnosed after noticing the rash on the cheek.


Treatment

Fifth disease is rarely threatening and clears off on its own without any aggressive treatment. Doctors generally prescribe acetaminophen or ibuprofen to treat fever and other flu like symptoms. Adequate rest, plenty of fluids and avoiding exposure to sun and heat helps immensely in relieving the symptoms. 


Complications

Fifth disease does not cause any complications in normal cases. However patients with certain underlying conditions such as autoimmune disorders, sickle-cell anemia, Aplastic anemia, Spherocytosis and low count of red blood cells need to be highly watchful of the disease as it can cause serious complications for them. They should seek immediate medical attention in case of suspicion to avoid further damage.


Fifth disease can also be dangerous to pregnant woman. In rare cases, the disease can spread from a pregnant woman to her unborn child. In such a condition, the baby will develop severe anemia with low red blood count leading to heart failure. Hence it is very important for pregnant women to avoid exposure to the disease and maintain hygiene throughout the term.


Prevention

There is no vaccine to prevent the infection and also no medication is available to treat it. It is best to prevent the disease by following certain steps like:


  • Frequent washing of hands with medicated soap.
  • Disposing used tissues or hand towels carefully.
  • Covering your mouth when sneezing, coughing, etc.
  • Avoiding contact with those who have Fifth disease.

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Bibliography / Reference

Collection of Pages - Last revised Date: September 23, 2019