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Blood is a significantly important component of the human body. This fluid carries oxygen and nutrients to various body tissues and removes waste from them. It consists of two primary components. These are the plasma and the formed elements. The three formed cells suspended in the plasma are the white blood cells, the red blood cells (RBC), and platelets. The red blood cells supply oxygen all over the body. Considering their function, these cells are the most abundant cells in the human body. 20 drops of blood comprise of approximately 5 billion RBCs (Chiras, 2011). The human red blood cells live for about 120 days after which the liver and spleen remove them as new ones are formed. The production of new RBCs occurs inside the bones in tissues known as the red marrow by stem cells. The number of the red blood cells remains constant over long periods of time. A hormone, known as erythropoietin, controls the RBCs concentration. The production of this hormone takes place in the kidney cells, when the level of oxygen in the blood stream declines (Chiras, 2011). For example, when a person loses blood in an accident, this hormone stimulates the cells in the red bone marrow to divide and multiply thus increasing the RBC production. Depending on the RBC concentration, the production and release of the erythropoietin fluctuates accordingly.
Causes of Anemia
Several factors interfere with the red blood cells’ count, size, volume, and the hemoglobin content. This results in the interference with the blood’s oxygen carrying capacity. Anemia may result from the reduction in the number of the circulating RBCs, a reduction in the hemoglobin content, the presence of abnormal hemoglobin in the RBC content, or the failure of the red blood cells to mature and develop appropriately (Chiras, 2011).
There are several forms of anemia - each with its cause. Although some forms of anemia are temporary and mild, others may be long-term and severe. The most common types of anemia are the iron-deficiency anemia, megaloblastic anemia, pernicious anemia, aplastic anemia, talassemia and sickle cell anemia.
The reduction in the number of the red blood cells may result from prolonged bleeding or the presence of a tumor in the red marrow that reduces the RBC production. Bleeding may result from gastrointestinal conditions such as ulcers, hemorrhoids, and cancer (Staff, 2011). In addition, the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin may cause such occurrences. Other causes of this reduction include the injuring of the bone marrow by medications and treatments involving radiation and chemotherapy. Moreover, infectious diseases such as malaria reduce the RBC concentration. The decline in the hemoglobin level in the RBC is caused by the iron-deficiency, the deficiency of Vitamin B-12, or copper in the diet. Abnormal hemoglobin results from sickle-cell anemia and other genetic disorders (Chiras, 2011). Other causes of anemia include pregnancy, immune system problems that cause the destruction of blood cells or inadequate thyroid hormone and testosterone deficiency (Zieve, 2011).
Signs and Symptoms
Anemia usually presents itself through feeling of weakness, fatigue, and chest pains among patients. The affected individuals present paleness and the tendency to faint. Often, they become short of breath. In addition, anemic individuals often have increased heart rate as their heart beat increases to offset the deficiency in the blood’s oxygen carrying-carrying capacity. Other symptoms include headaches and difficulty concerting. In some specific types of anemia, constipation and tinkling may be present.
Apart from evaluating the patient’s medical history and conducting a physical examination, medical professionals can perform blood tests to diagnose anemia. These tests include testing the blood levels of vitamin b-12 and folic acids, undertaking the red blood cells count to determine the number, size, volume and the hemoglobin content, establishing the reticulocyte count, ferrite and iron levels (Zieve, 2011).
The treatment of anemia may take different approaches. These include blood transfusions, the prescription of medications that suppresses the immune system in the case of hemolytic anemia, the application of erythropoietin medication to stimulate the production of more red blood cells by the red marrow, and provision of supplements for iron, Vitamin B12, folic acid and other lacking vitamins and minerals. Although the normal anemia is not a life threatening condition, it weakens a person’s resistance to other ailments and interferes with productivity. However, severe anemia can cause low oxygen concentration in the body’s vital organs such as the heart. Such an occurrence may cause heart failure and death.
Although several types of anemia such as thalassemia are unpreventable, iron-deficiency anemia and vitamin-deficiency anemia can be avoided by including a variety of vitamins and nutrients in diets. Some of the iron rich foods include meat, proteins, and dark green leafy vegetables. Sources of folate include citrus fruits, bananas, legumes, cereals, and pasta. Vitamin B-12 is found naturally in meat and dairy products (Saff, 2011).
As of 2007, the most prevalent type of anemia was the iron-deficiency anemia. It results from the lack of mineral iron in the body. The bone marrow requires iron in the manufacture of hemoglobin. The lack adequate iron in the body creates hemoglobin deficiency. This disorder is prevalent in children and women of childbearing years due to their bodies’ high iron demand (Corporation, 2007). High metabolism in pregnant and breast feeding women depletes the iron in the body. Women suffer considerable blood loss from menstruation and increased demand for blood during pregnancy. The prevalence of iron-deficiency anemia is estimate at around 50 percent in the developing countries (Corporation, 2007). The prevalence considerably declines to 10 percent in the developed countries. In addition, the prevalence of this disorder increases with age due to poor diet and other medical conditions that develop due to old age.