Anemia is a condition in which your blood has either:
Blood is made up of various parts, including red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and plasma (the fluid portion of blood).
Red blood cells are disc-shaped and look like doughnuts without holes in the center. They carry oxygen and remove carbon dioxide from your body. These cells are made in the bone marrow. Hemoglobin is an iron-rich protein that gives blood its red color. This protein helps red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.
White blood cells and platelets also are made in the bone marrow. White blood cells help fight infection. Platelets stick together to seal small cuts or breaks on the blood vessel walls and stop bleeding. With some types of anemia, you may have low numbers of all three types of blood cells.
Anemia has three main causes:
These causes may be due to many diseases, conditions, or other factors.
If you have anemia, your body doesn't get enough oxygen-rich blood. As a result, you may:
Severe or long-lasting anemia can damage the heart, brain, and other organs of the body. Very severe anemia may even cause death.
Many types of anemia can be mild, short term, and easily treated. You can even prevent some types with a healthy diet. Other types can be treated with dietary supplements. However, certain types of anemia may be severe, long lasting, and life threatening if not diagnosed and treated. In severe cases treatment may include blood transfusions or hyperbaric oxygen.
If you have signs and symptoms of anemia, see your doctor to find out whether you have the condition. Treatment will depend on the cause and severity of the anemia.