Hemoglobin is an iron-rich protein that helps red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. If you have anemia, your body does not get enough oxygen-rich blood. This can cause you to feel tired or weak. You may also have shortness of breath, dizziness, headaches, or an irregular heartbeat.
There are many types and causes of anemia. Mild anemia is a common and treatable condition that can occur in anyone. Some people are at a higher risk for anemia, including women during their menstrual periods and pregnancy and people who donate blood frequently, do not get enough iron or certain vitamins, or take certain medicines or treatments, such as chemotherapy for cancer.
Anemia may also be a sign of a more serious condition. It may result from chronic bleeding in the stomach. Chronic inflammation from an infection, kidney disease, cancer, or autoimmune diseases can also cause the body to make fewer red blood cells.
Your doctor will consider your medical history and physical exam and test results when diagnosing and treating anemia. He or she will use a simple blood test to confirm that you have low amounts of red blood cells or hemoglobin. For some types of mild to moderate anemia, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter or prescription iron supplements, certain vitamins, intravenous iron therapy, or medicines that make your body produce more red blood cells. To prevent anemia in the future, your doctor may also suggest healthy eating changes. If you have severe anemia, your doctor may recommend red blood cell transfusions.
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