Anemia is a condition characterized by abnormally low levels of healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin.
The tissues of the human body need a regular supply of oxygen to stay healthy. Red blood cells, which contain hemoglobin that allows them to deliver oxygen throughout the body, live for only about 120 days. When they die, the iron they contain is returned to the bone marrow and used to create new red blood cells. Anemia can develop when heavy bleeding causes significant iron loss. It also occurs when something happens to slow down the production of red blood cells or to increase the rate at which they are destroyed.
Anemia can be mild, moderate, or severe enough to lead to life-threatening complications. Over 400 different types of anemia have been identified. Many of them are rare. More common anemia types include:
Anemia is caused by bleeding, decreased red blood cell production, or increased red blood cell destruction. Poor diet can contribute to vitamin deficiency and iron deficiency anemia, in which fewer red blood cells are produced. Hereditary disorders and certain diseases can cause increased blood cell destruction. However, excessive bleeding is the most common cause of anemia, and the speed with which blood loss occurs has a significant effect on the severity of symptoms. Chronic blood loss may be caused by: