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7 Facts You Might Not Know About Anemia

Dani is a writer and actress who loves to learn and share tips and information to help others.

Anemia is characterized by not having enough red blood cells

Anemia is characterized by not having enough red blood cells

Anemia is one of those diseases that people know of and may even know a symptom or two, but don't quite understand. You may be familiar with anemic people feeling fatigued or feeling cold all the time, but do you really know about the disease? This article will shed some light on anemia with seven facts you may not know about the disease.

Keep reading to find out more.

1. There are A LOT of anemic people.

Anemia is the most common blood condition in the United States. Over 5 million people in the country are estimated to be anemic although its one of the most easily treatable conditions. On a worldwide scale, it's estimated that over 1.6 billion are anemic[2]. Anemia most commonly affects people of African descent but can also affect Hispanic people.

In many underdeveloped countries, the percentage of children who are anemic is extremely high. For example, many African countries have very high rates of anemic kids. In a country in Africa called Burkina Faso, 86 percent of children are anemic. In a second African country--Mali 80 percent of children are anemic.[1]

2. Iron deficiency is the number one cause of anemia in the world[2].

Although there is more than one cause of the disease, iron deficiency is the main culprit. Iron deficiency occurs when the body doesn't have enough iron to fully support the production of erythrocytes (red blood cells) in bone marrow. They create hemoglobin and transport oxygen throughout the body. There are several reasons why a person would have an iron deficiency. Some of the more common reasons are:

  • A diet that is poor in iron. Can be common in children, vegans, and vegetarians.
  • Digestive problems or conditions, including certain diseases.
  • Ingestibles such as medication, foods, and drinks.
  • Menstrual periods in women who tend to bleed heavily.
  • Pregnancy, or more specifically, the developmental process of the baby.
  • Breast feeding can also deplete women's iron levels.
Sickle Cell is characterized by hard, stringy hemoglobin that causes misshapen red blood cells which can easily burst before performing its job.

Sickle Cell is characterized by hard, stringy hemoglobin that causes misshapen red blood cells which can easily burst before performing its job.

3. There are several other causes of the disease besides iron deficiency.

Although iron deficiency is the most prevalent cause, there are many internal or external factors that could contribute to the disease. A lot of the causes are inherited from one or both birth parents but some of them could be as simple as getting bit by a spider. In many cases, the cause could be unknown.

4. Sickle cell anemia is inherited from both parents.

This is an extreme type of anemia that can only occur if a person inherits two abnormal hemoglobin genes--one from each parent[3]. Known as hemoglobin S, these genes can cause life long problems such as extreme pain, swelling of extremities, infections, delayed growth, and complications with many different organs. Although the disease can be managed, the only cure is through a bone marrow transplant. Not many people qualify for a transplant.

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5. Only one version of sickle cell disease can make people anemic.

Many people aren't aware that there are six variations of sickle cell disease. The variation known as hemoglobin SS is where both of the abnormal genes that were inherited from parents make abnormal hemoglobin. Hemoglobin SS is the most common and most extreme form of sickle cell.

6. Vitamin deficiencies can cause the disease.

Folate and vitamin B12 are also responsible for making red blood cells in the body. The body can either be deficient in the vitamins or have poor absorption rate. Both lead to a decreased production of red blood cells, causing either megoblastic or pernicious anemia. Certain medications and or conditions like Celiac's disease or pregnancy can lead to a vitamin deficiency.

7. Problems with bone marrow or stem cells can cause the disease.

Some stem cells in bone marrow gets converted to red blood cells. If these stem cells become damaged, missing, or cancerous, this can lead to aplastic or thalassemia anemia. These conditions are typically inherited and affect babies from birth.

Some Final Thoughts....

Not all cases of anemia is extreme. Sometimes it can be managed as simply as taking vitamin supplements. Other cases may take a bit more management. There are plenty of successful people who have anemia but have not let their success hold them back. Tiki Barber is a great example. He was drafted by the New York Giants in 1997 and played pro football for almost ten years.

In the cases that are extreme, curing anemia may be difficult or even impossible, but it can be managed to a point that a person can still have a fulfilling life. It takes a lot of effort to manage the disease, and there will be challenges along the way, but with diligence and a positive attitude, a person with anemia can still thrive.

© 2018 Dani Alicia


Dani Alicia (author) from Florence, SC on January 16, 2019:

Thank you for reading and I am glad I could encourage your and your family's dialogue!

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on December 27, 2018:

Very useful. Been discussing with a family member who is anemic as I was reading. The opportunity arose for me to ask some questions I wouldn't have otherwise. Thanks from both of us.

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