Home > Health A – Z > Anemia

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

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.

The use of erythropoietin improve anaemia and reduces blood transfusions in surgery for cancer of the large bowel.

Patients with cancer of the large bowel are often anaemic and sometimes receive transfusions which may be harmful. The medication erythropoietin can be used to increase hemoglobin levels in a variety of situations and several studies have looked at this in patients who have surgery for their large bowel cancer. This systematic review of four studies found there is insufficient evidence to support the use of erythropoietin in the preoperative and post‐operative period for improving anaemia and decreasing blood transfusions. There was also no evidence that the medication was the cause of increased complications or deaths. Future studies or erythropoietin in large bowel cancer surgery should increase the dose or duration of treatment.

See all (727)

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.

The use of erythropoietin improve anaemia and reduces blood transfusions in surgery for cancer of the large bowel.

Patients with cancer of the large bowel are often anaemic and sometimes receive transfusions which may be harmful. The medication erythropoietin can be used to increase hemoglobin levels in a variety of situations and several studies have looked at this in patients who have surgery for their large bowel cancer. This systematic review of four studies found there is insufficient evidence to support the use of erythropoietin in the preoperative and post‐operative period for improving anaemia and decreasing blood transfusions. There was also no evidence that the medication was the cause of increased complications or deaths. Future studies or erythropoietin in large bowel cancer surgery should increase the dose or duration of treatment.

See all (212)

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

Keep up with systematic reviews on Anemia:

RSS

PubMed Health Blog...

read all...