Anemia, which literally means “too little blood,” is a condition of inadequate or impaired red blood cells that results in little hemoglobin in the blood. The red blood cells may not be enough or may be immature to function properly. Anemia may be caused by blood loss, premature or excessive blood cell destruction, defective red blood cell formation, chronic diseases, and nutrient deficiencies. Anemia is not a disease, but a symptom of another disease.
This article on Anemia and management of Anemia is for learning purposes only. To learn to help individuals with Anemia sign up for a first aid course near you.
Types of Anemia
1.) Aplastic Anemia – is caused by a decrease in the precursor cells in the bone marrow and replaced with fat. It is usually manifested by pancytopenia (deficiency in the RBC, WBC, and platelet) that makes the person weak, pale, fatigued, risk for bleeding, and risk for infection. This is usually treated by bone marrow transplantation and administration of immunosuppressive therapy.
2.) Iron-Deficiency Anemia – is a condition in which the total body iron content is decreased. This is the most common anemia in the world among all age groups. Iron is an important component in making of hemoglobin that carries oxygen in the blood. Without iron, red blood cells would appear smaller (microcytosis) and lighter (hypochromic) under the microscope.
Iron-deficiency anemia is often caused by bleeding, excessive blood loss, malnutrition, parasitic infection, and chronic alcoholism. It is usually treated with iron supplements such as ferrous sulfate, food with high iron content such as liver, meat, beans, and green leafy vegetables, and foods with vitamin C to increase iron absorption.
3.) Megaloblastic Anemia – is anemia caused by deficiencies of vitamin B12 and folic acid, which are required for normal DNA synthesis. This is called megaloblastic anemia because the red blood cells can be seen as large (macrocytosis) and darker (hyperchromic).
Vitamin B12 can develop with vegetarians because it is exclusively found in meat and persons who lack intrinsic factor (pernicious anemia) because it can only be absorbed orally through intrinsic factor. On the other hand, folic acid deficiency usually occurs in alcoholics and persons who rarely eat fruits and vegetables. It is best to consult physicians for immediate treatment of severe megaloblastic anemias that will need injections of vitamin B12 and folic acid.
4.) Hemolytic Anemia – is an anemia caused by a shortened life span of the red blood cells. In this case, red blood cells are prematurely destructed in less than 120 days. The most common hemolytic anemia is sickle cell anemia. Sickle cell anemia is a severe hemolytic anemia from a defective hemoglobin molecule. There are many trials of treatment for sickle cell anemia that is still being studied.
First aid management for anemia
First aid may be administered for anemia such as helping the person to overcome fatigue or weakness after an activity. Dizziness may also occur with the feeling of coldness and headache. When this happens, help the person rest and assist the individual when he or she is feeling dizzy. When the person experiences shortness of breath, assess for pulse and breathing and apply CPR when necessary.
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Sizer, F., Whitney, E. Nutrition: Concepts and Controversies. 8th Edition, 2000. Wadsworth.