Anemia

Anemia

What is anemia? — Anemia is the medical term for when a person has too few red blood cells. Red blood cells are the cells in your blood that carry oxygen. If you have too few red blood cells, your body might not get all the oxygen it needs.
Different things can cause anemia. The most common cause is not getting enough iron. Another kind of anemia can be caused by other health problems. This is called "anemia of inflammation" or "anemia of chronic disease." Some people with this type of anemia also have low iron, but this is not always the case.
Anemia of inflammation can be caused by a long-term or "chronic" condition. Examples include diabetes, cancer, chronic infections, or other chronic problems. The condition causes the body to keep iron away from the red blood cells that are being made.
What are the symptoms of anemia of inflammation? — Many people with anemia of inflammation have no symptoms. They find out they have it after their doctor does blood tests for another reason.
People who do have symptoms might:
Feel tired or weak, especially if they try to exercise
Feel irritable
Have headaches
These symptoms can also be related to the person's health condition. They do not always mean the person has anemia.
Should I see a doctor or nurse? — Yes. If you have a long-term disease or condition and get the symptoms listed above, tell your doctor or nurse.
Is there a test for anemia of inflammation? — Usually not. A blood test can show if you have anemia. But there is not one specific test that can show if your type of anemia is anemia of inflammation. It is something your doctor might suspect when you have a chronic condition plus anemia.
If you have anemia and a health condition, and tests do not find another cause of your anemia, your doctor might decide that anemia of inflammation is the likely cause.
In the future, there might be a blood test that can show if a person's anemia is due to anemia of inflammation.
How is anemia of inflammation treated? — The main treatment is to treat the chronic condition. For example, if you have diabetes, treatment to improve your blood sugar will also help with the anemia.
Sometimes other treatments are also given. For example:
If your body is low in iron, which happens in some people with anemia of inflammation, your doctor will give you iron supplements. You can get extra iron in pills or through a thin tube that goes into a vein, called an "IV."
In some cases, your doctor might use a medicine that causes your body to make more red blood cells. These medicines are called erythropoietin or erythropoiesis-stimulating agents, or "ESAs." But this is not common.
All topics are updated as new evidence becomes available and our peer review process is complete.
This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Mar 30, 2020.
Topic 17028 Version 6.0
Release: 28.2.2 - C28.105
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