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Anemia: An Overview

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Anemia related image Photo: Getty Images

If you’re a woman chances are you either have been, or will be, anemic at least once during your lifetime. While anemia certainly doesn’t discriminate between men and women, there are certain conditions unique to women, such as pregnancy and menstruation, which make anemia particularly troubling for women.

Here, we’ll take a closer look at anemia, its symptoms, risk factors, types and treatments.

What is Anemia?
In simplest terms, anemia occurs when your body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells. Red blood cells contain the protein hemoglobin. These cells are the workhorses charged with the task of carrying oxygen from the lungs to vital organs and muscle throughout the body.

They also gather up carbon dioxide and return it back to the lungs so that it can be expelled from the body. Without enough healthy red blood cells, this cycle is interrupted and inefficient.

As we’ll see below, some forms of anemia can be mild and may last only a short amount of time. Other forms may be more severe and may be chronic and last a long time.

What are Anemia Symptoms?
One of the most common symptoms of anemia is an unusual or unexplained feeling of tiredness or fatigue. Other symptoms include health events such as shortness of breath, chest pain, irregular heartbeat, pale skin, headaches, dizziness or feelings of faintness, cognitive problems such as difficulty concentrating, cold hands, feet or headaches.

What Causes Anemia?
Anemia is caused by three main conditions: excessive bleeding, low red blood cell production, and destruction of red blood cells. The majority of the conditions that cause anemia fall into one of these categories.

What are Common Anemia Types? How is Anemia Treated?
While there can be many causes for anemia, some of the more commonly known causes include:

• Aplastic anemia: caused by reduced ability to produce more supplies of red blood cells due to autoimmune diseases, drugs and infections. Relatively rare, this form of anemia may be life threatening, treated with blood transfusions and bone marrow transplant may be required.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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