Anemia: definition, causes, symptoms, treatments
In this video and in this article you will find:
- The definition of anemia
- The different types of anemia
- Anemia and iron deficiency
- The different causes of anemia
- How to know if you have anemia?
- The different treatments for anemia
Anemia is a problem that affects many people and can have different causes.
To begin with, you should know that the definition of anemia is a reduction in the level of hemoglobin in the blood.
Hemoglobin is a protein found in red blood cells and is made up of an iron atom and various amino acids (molecules that make up proteins).
Hemoglobin allows oxygen to be transported through the blood to the various cells of our organs for their proper functioning.
It is thanks to this oxygen that our cells can live and produce energy.
The symptoms of anemia are very characteristic, they are a pale face, fatigue, headaches and / or a feeling of cold.
Anemia can have different causes:
- A reduction in the number of red blood cells due to:
A hemorrhage resulting from a wound that is too large (heavy periods, digestive ulcer,...)
A destruction of red blood cells following an infection such as malaria (bite by the anopheles insect which causes a destruction of red blood cells)
A transfusion error, the immune system considers that the transfused red blood cells are foreign bodies, so it will eliminate them.
- There may also be an abnormality in the shape of the red blood cells due to a genetic disease, for example in :
Beta-thalassemia, they are too small
Sickle cell disease, they have a sickle shape (sickle cell anemia)
- A defect in the production of red blood cells in the bone marrow (the substance that produces blood cells, found in the long and flat bones) due to certain chemotherapy treatments, for example.
- An iron deficiency, which is called iron deficiency anemia
- A deficiency in vitamins B12 or B9
- Chronic renal insufficiency leading to a reduction in the production of erythropoietin or EPO (a hormone produced by the kidney and liver), which plays an essential role in the formation and growth of red blood cells
To see if you have a real anemia, the doctor will order a blood test to measure your hemoglobin and your MGV (Mean Blood Cell Volume), which corresponds to the average number of red blood cells in the blood.
All of these are part of the markers grouped together in the NFS or haemogram written on the prescription for the blood test.
The doctor may also check your iron, ferritin (a hormone that stores iron), vitamin B9 and B12 levels.
The diagnosis is made when the hemoglobin level is below 13g/dl in men and below 12g/dl in women.
Visualization of the red blood cells under a microscope allows to see if there is an abnormality in their shape.
Treatment of anemia depends on its severity and the disruption it causes in the person's daily life.
If it is a dietary deficiency, the doctor will prescribe iron or vitamin B9 and/or B12 supplements.
If the anemia is too severe, the patient may be prescribed regular transfusions.
For anemia due to chronic renal failure, EPO may be given to the patient.
For severe anemia due to genetic factors, science has made great progress in this area, especially in gene therapy.
In simple terms, gene therapy consists of extracting cells from the patient's bone marrow to rectify them and then reintroduce them into the patient's body.
This technique allows the correction of the genetic anomaly that causes the production of abnormal red blood cells and thus permanently remedies the anemia.
These operations require a certain amount of time and many important precautions. Do not hesitate to talk about it with your specialist.
Dr. Noura Marashi (doctor of pharmacy, health youtuber, creator of the health and well-being application Pharmaquiz)
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