Anemia is a preventable and treatable blood disorder that affects people across ages, genders, and ethnicities. The condition can be caused by one’s lifestyle, nutritional deficiencies, or genetics. There are three types of anemia; some are more common, while others, like aplastic anemia, are rare. This blood disorder can be either chronic or be treated with a short treatment period and iron-rich food. This article discusses the symptoms and types of anemia.

Symptoms of anemia
Hemoglobin is an important component of our red blood cells, which carry oxygen to every part of our body. Anemia is caused when our body produces fewer red blood cells than usual – resulting in less hemoglobin. As a result, the body receives less oxygen than required for it to function normally. Anemia can be caused by heredity, excessive bleeding due to injury or menstruation, chronic diseases or infections, kidney disease, and nutritional deficiencies. The most common symptoms of anemia include:

Unsteadiness while standing up
Shortness of breath
Frequent mouth and tongue sores
Pale skin
Brittle nails
Inclination to eat weird objects that are not edible

A basic Complete Blood Count examination (CBC) is the basic tool for diagnosing anemia. Doctors may prescribe additional exams to identify the cause and type of anemia.

Anemia is classified based on the size and quality of the red blood cells (RBC). They include:

Microcytic anemia
The anemia is classified as microcytic anemia when the RBCs are smaller than normal. Iron and vitamin deficiency, inflammatory diseases, and thalassemia are the most common reasons for microcytic anemia. It is more common in children and seniors with poor nutrition, people with dental issues, and those with malabsorption. Heavy menstrual bleeding GI tract bleeding can also cause microcytic anemia.

Eating an iron-rich food regime and supplements or oral iron preparations are the most effective treatments for microcytic anemia. Though thalassemia is rare, doctors work on managing it to prevent associated complications.

Normocytic anemia
If the red blood cells are normal in size but a person has lesser than required quantities, it is classified as normocytic anemia. Normocytic anemia can be diagnosed through a CBC blood exam and is generally caused by an underlying illness or low blood production. The most common causes of normocytic anemia include:

Menstrual bleeding
Bleeding caused by injury
Chronic disease of the GI tract, kidney, liver or heart
Sickle cell disease
Disease of bone marrow
Cancer and its treatment

Doctors treat the underlying disease, perform surgery to treat bleeding injuries or use hormone treatments to increase RBC production.

Macrocytic anemia
If the red blood cells produced are very large compared to the normal size, it is classified as macrocytic anemia. The cells may lack the required nutrients and do not function efficiently. Nutritional deficiencies and underlying health conditions are the main causes of macrocytic anemia. Eating iron-rich foods can help treat the condition. Doctors may recommend supplements and injections if the anemia is severe. Pernicious anemia caused by Vitamin B12 is one of the causes of macrocytic anemia and is common in seniors above 60. Long-term consumption of spirits is another major cause of macrocytic anemia. Counseling, lifestyle modifications, and healthy eating habits can help cure macrocytic anemia that is caused by excess alcoholism.