Anemia occurs when you have a low number of healthy red blood cells, which provide oxygen to your body. Oxygen is carried inside the red cell by a protein called hemoglobin. Without enough oxygen, your organs and tissues can become damaged.
Anemia: what you should know
Certain health conditions lead to the three main causes of anemia:
- Blood loss
- Lack of red blood cell production
- Red blood cell destruction
Determining the cause of your anemia guides your doctor in choosing the appropriate treatment. The following are anemias commonly treated at Rush:
- Aplastic anemia: Your bone marrow does not make enough new blood cells
- Hemolytic anemia: Red blood cells are destroyed prematurely
- Iron-deficiency anemia (the most common type): You do not have enough iron in your body to make hemoglobin, either because you are not eating enough iron-rich foods, your body is not absorbing enough iron, or you are losing blood
- Sickle cell anemia: A genetic disorder in which the body makes abnormal hemoglobin, resulting in sickle-shaped red blood cells that can block blood flow
- Pernicious anemia: Your body lacks a certain key nutrient, usually vitamin B12.
- Refractory anemia: Your bone marrow is unable to make red blood cells, even though it has all the necessary nutrients and vitamins
- Thalassemias: A group of inherited blood disorders where the body does not make enough red blood cells or hemoglobin
Anemia has several classic symptoms:
How can I get help for anemia?
See your primary care doctor if you have anemia symptoms. Your doctor will order blood tests, such as a complete blood count (CBC).
If you have anemia, your doctor may order more tests to determine the cause of your anemia. You may need to see a hematologist, a doctor who specializes in blood disorders.
Care for people with anemia at Rush
Your doctor has two treatment goals:
- Identifying and treating the cause of your anemia
- Raising your red blood cell count or hemoglobin level to a normal range, whenever possible
The treatment your doctor chooses will depend on the cause of your anemia and how severe it is:
- Dietary adjustments and supplements: May be enough to help you feel better (for anemia caused by an iron or vitamin deficiency)
- Medications: To stop your body from destroying red blood cells or help it make more
- Blood transfusions: To give you healthy red blood cells (for severe or chronic anemia)
- Bone marrow or stem cell transplant: To help your body make more healthy red blood cells (for aplastic anemia)
- Surgery: To stop any internal bleeding
- Spleen removal: If an enlarged or diseased spleen is causing your anemia
Why choose Rush for anemia care
- Rush has doctors who specialize in treating adults and children with blood disorders and who are involved in clinical and laboratory research. That gives them a deeper understanding of the conditions and access to new treatments being tested in clinical trials.
- If you require a bone marrow or stem cell transplant as part of your treatment, Rush is accredited by the National Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy.