refers to a reduction in one's red blood cell count or concentration of hemoglobin (the iron-containing compound within red blood cells that carries oxygen). There are a number of different types of anemia, including those from deficiencies of iron, vitamin B12 and folic acid. Anemia can also be caused by sickle cell disease
, thyroid disease, disorders of the bone marrow (where new blood cells are produced), liver disease, states of chronic inflammation (such as infection or autoimmune disease), as well as other causes.
Anemia is a common problem seen within the primary care clinic and the initial work-up involves diagnosing the exact type of anemia. If the red blood cells appear larger than usual, then vitamin B12 or folic acid deficiency may be the cause. In this case, repletion of these vitamins may completely cure the anemia. If the red blood cells are smaller than usual, then iron deficiency may be the cause, and further work-up may be needed to make sure the anemia is not due to due chronic bleeding
(such as from a colon cancer). In cases of a congenital cause of anemia, such as sickle cell disease, the disease is often managed chronically with blood transfusions and medications to increase the number of regular-appearing cells.