Anemia What Is Anemia?

: Young woman lying on the couch and holding her head with hand.

Anemia is a condition that develops when your blood produces a lower-than-normal amount of healthy red blood cells. If you have anemia, your body does not get enough oxygen-rich blood. The lack of oxygen can make you feel tired or weak. You may also have shortness of breath, dizziness, headaches, or an irregular heartbeat. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 3 million people in the United States have anemia.

There are many types of anemia, including:

Mild anemia is a common and treatable condition that can develop in anyone. It may come about suddenly or over time, and may be caused by your diet, medicines you take, or another medical condition. Anemia can also be chronic, meaning it lasts a long time and may never go away completely. Some types of anemia are inherited. The most common type of anemia is iron-deficiency anemia.

Some people are at a higher risk for anemia, including women during their menstrual periods and pregnancy. People who do not get enough iron or certain vitamins and people who take certain medicines or treatments are also at a higher risk.

Anemia may also be a sign of a more serious condition, such as bleeding in your stomach, inflammation from an infection, kidney disease, cancer, or autoimmune diseases. Your doctor will use your medical history, a physical exam, and test results to diagnose anemia.

Treatments for anemia depend on the type you have and how serious it is. For some types of mild to moderate anemia, you may need iron supplements, vitamins, 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.

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Your Guide to Anemia

Learn basic facts about anemia and how it affects your health.

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