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Anemia is a condition where a person does not have enough red blood cells to deliver oxygen to various tissues in the body. Experiencing anemia can make a person feel tired and weak.

There are various types of anemia, and each has a different cause. Anemia can occur temporarily or can persist over the long term, and has a severity that varies from mild to severe. The presence of anemia can be caused by the presence of other underlying health conditions.

Treatment of anemia can vary, from taking supplements to undergoing certain medical procedures. Some types of anemia can be prevented by consuming a healthy diet that is varied and nutritious.

Cause of Anemia

The human body produces three types of blood cells, namely white blood cells to fight infection, platelets to help blood clots, and red blood cells to deliver oxygen throughout the body. Red blood cells contain hemoglobin, an iron-rich protein that gives blood red.

Hemoglobin makes red blood cells capable of delivering oxygen from the lungs to other parts of the body, and transports carbon dioxide from all parts of the body to the lungs so that it can be removed from the body.

Most blood cells, including red blood cells, are produced regularly in the bone marrow, which is a material that resembles a sponge that is found in the gaps of many large bones.

To produce hemoglobin and red blood cells, the body needs iron, vitamin B12, folic acid, and various other nutrients from food consumed daily.

Anemia occurs when a person does not have enough red blood cells. This can happen if:

  • The body does not produce enough red blood cells
  • Bleeding, which causes a person to lose red blood cells faster than the number of red blood cells produced
  • The body destroys red blood cells


Here are some types of anemia and their causes:

  • Iron deficiency anemia This is the most common type of anemia in the world. Iron deficiency anemia is caused by low levels of iron in the body.

Bone marrow needs iron to produce hemoglobin. Without sufficient amounts of iron, the body cannot produce sufficient amounts of hemoglobin to form red blood cells. Without iron supplementation, this type of anemia can occur in pregnant women.

In addition, iron deficiency anemia can also be caused by blood loss. For example due to heavy menstrual bleeding, ulcers, cancer, or routine use of certain drugs such as aspirin.

  • Certain vitamin deficiency anemia. Apart from iron, the body also needs folic acid and vitamin B12 to produce healthy red blood cells in sufficient quantities.

A diet that is low in these substances and several other important nutrients can cause red blood cell production to decrease. In addition, some people can consume enough vitamin B12, but the body cannot process the vitamin. This can lead to vitamin deficiency anemia, which is called pernicious anemia.

  • Chronic disease anemia. Some diseases, such as cancer, HIV / AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis, kidney disease, etc., can affect the production of red blood cells.
  • Aplastic anemia. This rare and life-threatening anemia can occur if the body does not produce enough red blood cells. The causes of aplastic anemia include infection, consumption of certain medications, autoimmune diseases, and exposure to toxic chemicals.
  • Anemia is related to bone marrow disease. A series of diseases, such as leukemia and myelofibrosis, can cause anemia because it affects the production of blood cells in the bone marrow. The impact of the disease can vary from mild to life threatening.
  • Hemolytic anemia. Anemia in this group can occur when red blood cells are destroyed faster than their replacement by the bone marrow.

Certain blood diseases can accelerate the destruction of red blood cells. Hemolytic anemia can be reduced or occurs in adulthood.

  • Sickle cell anemia. This inherited anemia is a type of congenital hemolytic anemia. This condition is caused by defective hemoglobin which makes red blood cells become crescent-shaped.

The irregularly shaped cells experience premature death, which then causes chronic shortage of red blood cells.


There are several factors that can increase a person's risk for anemia, including:

  • Diets that are low in certain vitamins. Eating a diet that consistently contains iron, vitamin B12, or low folic acid can increase the risk of anemia.
  • Gastrointestinal disease. Having certain gastrointestinal diseases that affect the absorption of nutrients in the intestine can increase the risk of anemia.
  • In general, women who have not menopause have a higher risk of iron deficiency anemia than men and postmenopausal women. This is because menstruation can cause a decrease in the number of red blood cells.
  • Pregnant women who do not consume folic acid can have an increased risk of anemia.
  • Certain chronic conditions. A person with cancer, chronic kidney disease, or other chronic disease can have a higher risk of developing anemic chronic disease.


This condition can cause a deficiency of red blood cells. Slowly, chronic bleeding in the body can deplete iron reserves in the body, which then causes iron deficiency anemia.

  • Family history. People with family members who have a history of anemia are reduced, such as sickle cell anemia, can have an increased risk of the condition.
  • Other factors. A history of certain infections, blood diseases, autoimmune diseases, alcoholism, exposure to toxic chemicals, and the use of certain drugs can affect the production of red blood cells and cause anemia.
  • People over the age of 65 have a higher risk of anemia.

Symptoms of Anemia

Signs and symptoms of anemia can vary depending on the cause of the anemia. However, some signs and symptoms that can be observed in anemia include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Pale or yellowish skin
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Hard to breathe
  • Dizzy
  • Chest pain
  • Hands and feet feel cold
  • Headache


At first, anemia can be very mild and show no signs or symptoms. However, as the severity of anemia increases, signs and symptoms will become more visible.

Diagnosis of Anemia

To determine the diagnosis of anemia, doctors can conduct medical interviews related to medical history and family history. In addition, they also carry out physical examinations and recommend certain investigations, such as:

  • General check up. Complete blood tests are generally intended to count the number of blood cells from a blood sample taken. To determine anemia, the doctor will observe the proportion of red blood cells in the blood (hematocrit) and blood hemoglobin levels.
  • Examination to determine the size and shape of red blood cells. Blood samples taken can be further evaluated to observe abnormal size, shape, or coloring.
  • Additional diagnostic checks. In people who have been diagnosed with anemia, doctors can recommend additional testing to determine the underlying cause.

Handling of Anemia

Handling of anemia depends on the underlying cause. There are several types of treatment for anemia, including:

  • Iron deficiency anemia. Management of this type of anemia generally includes consumption of iron supplementation and dietary changes.

If the cause of iron deficiency anemia that occurs is blood loss, other than due to menstruation, the source of bleeding must be investigated further and stopped.

  • Certain vitamin deficiency anemia. Handling for folic acid and vitamin B12 deficiency includes nutritional supplementation and increasing nutrient intake in the daily diet.
  • Chronic disease anemia. In this type of anemia, treatment is focused on the underlying condition.

If symptoms worsen, blood transfusion or synthetic injection of erythropoietin (a kidney-produced hormone) can help stimulate the production of red blood cells and reduce fatigue.

  • Aplastic anemia. Handling this type of anemia can include blood transfusions to increase levels of red blood cells.

If the bone marrow is disrupted and cannot produce healthy blood cells, a bone marrow transplant can be needed.

  • Anemia related to bone marrow disease. Treatment for a group of conditions can include treatment, chemotherapy, or bone marrow transplant.
  • Hemolytic anemia. Dealing with hemolytic anemia can be done in several ways, including avoiding the consumption of medications that are suspected of causing the condition, dealing with associated infections, and taking the medication needed.
  • Sickle cell anemia. Treatment for this type of anemia can include administration of oxygen, anti-pain treatment, and oral and intravenous fluids, to reduce pain and prevent complications.


Doctors can also recommend blood transfusions, folic acid supplementation, and antibiotics if needed.

Prevention of Anemia

Some types of anemia cannot be prevented. However, for some other types, some prevention strategies that can be applied are:

  • Eating a diet rich in vitamins and minerals. For example, iron deficiency anemia and vitamin deficiency anemia can be avoided by consuming a diet that includes various vitamins and nutrients, including iron (meat, beans, iron fortified cereals, and green vegetables), folic acid (fruits , fruit juices, green vegetables, peas, beans, and wheat products such as bread, cereals, pasta and rice), vitamin B12 (meat, milk products, fortified cereals, and soy products), and vitamin C (fruit citrus, broccoli, tomatoes, melons, and strawberries).
  • Consider genetic counseling. In people who have a family history of inherited anemia, such as sickle cell anemia or thalassemia, discussing the risk of experiencing and decreasing the condition with a doctor or genetic counselor can be an option.

Avoid contracting malaria. Anemia can be one of the complications of malaria. Someone who plans to travel to an area where malaria often occurs is recommended to discuss with doctors the need to consume preventive medicines and things that can be done to limit exposure to mosquitoes.


Last update 10 February 2019

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Is a health and wellness enthusiast. In him free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.