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Anemia

A condition caused when the body does not have enough red blood cells or hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein in the blood that carries oxygen.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases)

Anemia

Anemia (uh-NEE-me-uh) is a condition in which your blood has a lower than normal number of red blood cells.

Anemia also can occur if your red blood cells don't contain enough hemoglobin (HEE-muh-glow-bin). 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.

If you have anemia, your body doesn't get enough oxygen-rich blood. As a result, you may feel tired or weak. You also may have other symptoms, such as shortness of breath, dizziness, or headaches.

Severe or long-lasting anemia can damage your heart, brain, and other organs in your body. Very severe anemia may even cause death.

Overview

Blood is made up of many parts, including red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets (PLATE-lets), and plasma (the fluid portion of blood).

Red blood cells are disc-shaped and look like doughnuts without... Read more about Anemia

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Stem cell transplantation in acquired severe aplastic anaemia: Executive summary of final report N05-03B, Version 1.0

The aim of this review was the evaluation of studies on allogeneic stem cell transplantation with an unrelated donor vs. immunosuppressive therapy in patients with acquired severe aplastic anaemia. The focus of the evaluation was on patient-relevant therapy goals.

Ferumoxytol versus Other Intravenous Iron Therapies for Anemia: A Review of the Clinical and Cost-effectiveness and Guidelines – An Update [Internet]

Ferumoxytol (Feraheme) is a colloidal superparamegnetic iron-carbohydrate complex that was specifically designed to reduce immunological reactivity. It can be rapidly administered (IV rate of 30–60 seconds) as a 510 mg dose with the second IV injection administered two to eight days later. The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States has listed ferumoxytol for the treatment of iron deficiency anemia (IDA, characterized by iron deficiency) in adult patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD). Health Canada has recently placed restrictions on the use of ferumoxytol due to the potential for serious allergic reactions. Therefore, this review was performed to assess the clinical effectiveness and safety of ferumoxytol compared with other IV iron therapies for patients with IDA. In addition, cost-effectiveness and evidence-based guidelines were also investigated to determine the costs associated with ferumoxytol and its use in patients with IDA. This is an update to a previous review on ferumoxytol which found limited evidence that stated that it seemed to have comparable efficacy to other iron complexes but that it was associated with an increased adverse event profile.

Blood transfusion for anaemia in patients with advanced cancer

Many patients admitted to a hospice are anaemic but only a small proportion receive a blood transfusion. Two of the main symptoms of anaemia are fatigue and breathlessness. This review aimed to identify whether blood transfusion was a useful treatment for patients with advanced cancer who were anaemic. We identified only 12 relevant studies but all were of low quality. They indicated that fatigue and breathlessness improved immediately after the transfusion but this began to wane after a period of two weeks. Of those receiving a transfusion, 31% to 70% had a transient benefit that lasted about two weeks.

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Summaries for consumers

Blood transfusion for anaemia in patients with advanced cancer

Many patients admitted to a hospice are anaemic but only a small proportion receive a blood transfusion. Two of the main symptoms of anaemia are fatigue and breathlessness. This review aimed to identify whether blood transfusion was a useful treatment for patients with advanced cancer who were anaemic. We identified only 12 relevant studies but all were of low quality. They indicated that fatigue and breathlessness improved immediately after the transfusion but this began to wane after a period of two weeks. Of those receiving a transfusion, 31% to 70% had a transient benefit that lasted about two weeks.

Erythropoietin may help people with kidney failure and symptoms from anaemia who are not yet on dialysis.

Anaemia (low red blood cells) is a common complication of kidney failure. Anaemia causes some of the tiredness and problems associated with kidney failure. Manufactured erythropoietin (a hormone that increases red blood cell production) improves this, and is used by people on dialysis (treatment from an artificial kidney machine). The review of trials found it can also reduce anaemia for people with kidney failure who are not yet on dialysis. It is not known if erythropoietin use can delay the need for dialysis.

Hormone contraceptives for women with sickle cell anemia

Whether women with sickle cell anemia should use hormonal birth control is unknown. Sickle cell anemia is a blood disease. This type of anemia also causes bone pain known as sickle pain crises. A concern is that women with this disease using hormonal birth control may have blood vessels blocked by blood clots or have more bone pain. Clinicians often do not prescribe these types of birth control due to these concerns. However, many women with sickle cell anemia are sexually active, are able to get pregnant and are interested in contraception.

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More about Anemia

Photo of a young adult woman

Also called: Anaemia, Anemic

See Also: Aplastic Anemia, Fanconi Anemia, Hemolytic Anemia, Iron-Deficiency Anemia, Pernicious Anemia, Sickle Cell Anemia

Other terms to know:
Hematocrit, Hemoglobin, Red Blood Cells (Erythrocytes)

Related articles:
What Does Blood Do?
Blood Tests

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