There are different kinds of anemia. Some forms of this condition are inherited, while others are brought on by poor nutrition.
Iron Deficiency Anemia
The body needs iron to produce the hemoglobin necessary for red blood cell production. In general, most people need just 1 milligram of iron daily. Menstruating women need double that dose.
Vitamin Deficiency Anemias
Vitamin B-12 is also essential in hemoglobin production. Normally, a chemical secreted by the stomach helps the body absorbs this vitamin. However, some people can't readily absorb B-12. The result is B-12 deficiency (pernicious anemia). Because the symptoms develop gradually this condition may not be immediately recognized. Those with thyroid disease or diabetes mellitus are at increased risk for this type of anemia. The condition occurs most often in 40- to 80-year-old northern Europeans with fair skin.
A lack of folic acid, another one of the B vitamins, can also lead to anemia. Folic acid deficiency is a particular problem for alcoholics.
Anemia caused by the premature destruction of red blood cells is known as hemolytic anemia. In this type of anemia, antibodies produced by the immune system damage red blood cells. This condition is sometimes associated with disorders such as systemic lupus, or lymphoma.
Toxic materials such as lead, copper, and benzene can also cause the destruction of red blood cells.
Blood transfusions may be necessary for some people with this kind of anemia. Hemolytic anemia can be acquired or inherited. Sickle cell disease and thalassemia are both inherited types of hemolytic anemia.
Sickle Cell Anemia
Sickle cell anemia is also known as Hemoglobin S disease. This is a serious, life-threatening inherited form of anemia. Persons with this disease have sickle-shaped red blood cells that are stiff and unable to squeeze through blood vessels.
Persons with this disease often suffer from pain in the joints and bones. Infections and heart failure can also occur.
The disease occurs in just 0.6 percent of the population, usually in African Americans.
This is a group of anemias due to the defects in the genes producing hemoglobin. It is most common in people of Mediterranean descent. There are two major forms: thalassemia minor and thalassemia major.
As its name implies, thalassemia minor is mild and those suffering from this condition go on to live a full life. Treatment is often unnecessary. Thalassemia major can be serious, but it is very rare. Transfusions or bone marrow transplants are usually required. Thalassemia major is also called Cooley's anemia, named after the doctor who first described it in 1925.
This is one of the deadliest and most rare forms of anemia. Only two to six people per million have this type of anemia. The condition results from an unexplained failure of the bone marrow to produce all types of blood cells. Instead, fat cells replace bone marrow.
Aplastic anemia is usually found in adolescents and young adults. Symptoms can include bleeding in the mucous membranes. Chemicals such as benzene and certain pesticides can also cause this type of anemia.