DescriptionAn in-depth report on the types, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of anemia.
Alternative NamesIron Deficiency; Pernicious Anemia
Most cases of anemia are mild, including those that occur as a result of chronic disease. Nevertheless, even mild anemia can reduce oxygen transport in the blood, causing fatigue and a diminished physical capacity. Moderate to severe iron-deficiency anemia is known to reduce endurance. (Some studies indicate that even iron deficiency without anemia can produce a subtle but still lower capacity for exercise.)
Complications of Severe or Prolonged Anemia
Because a reduction in red blood cells decreases the ability to absorb oxygen from the lungs, over time serious problems can occur in prolonged and severe anemia that is not treated. Anemia can lead to secondary organ dysfunction or damage, including heart arrhythmia and congestive heart failure.
Certain inherited forms of anemia, including thalassemia major, pernicious anemia, and sickle-cell anemia can be life threatening. Thalassemia major and sickle-cell anemia affect children and are particularly devastating.
Effects of Anemia in Pregnant Women
Pregnant women who are anemic have an increased risk for poor pregnancy outcomes, particularly if they are anemic in the first trimester.
Complications from Anemia in Children and Adolescents
One study reported a higher incidence of ear infections in infants with iron deficiency anemia.(On the other hand, some experts have identified an anemia in children that may be caused by inflammation from infections such as ear infections, urinary tract infections, or others. More research is needed on this finding.)
In children, severe anemia can impair growth and motor and mental development. Proof is lacking, but one small, well-conducted trial suggested that iron therapy in anemic children under two may help reverse some of these problems. (Iron deficiency in vegetarian children without anemia may cause mental impairment, but it appears to be temporary.)
A long-term 2000 study reported that 11- to 15-year old children who had been severely iron-deficient during their infant years scored lower than normal children in all subjects, but particularly in written expression. They also tended to have more behavioral, general health, and emotional problems. Another study reported that teenage girls with iron deficiency, even without anemia, may have temporary memory and concentration loss.
Effects of Anemia in the Elderly
Anemia is common in older people and can have significantly more severe complications than anemia in younger adults. A 1999 study reported higher mortality rates in anemic individuals 85 and older compared to their nonanemic peers. (The rates were higher in anemic men than in women.) The following are examples of its effects from different studies:
Effects of Vitamin B12 Deficiencies and Pernicious Anemia
In addition to anemia, vitamin B12 deficiency can cause neurologic damage, which can be irreversible if it continues for long periods without treatment. People with pernicious anemia, which results in an inability to absorb the vitamin, are not only at risk for neurologic damage, but also have a higher risk for stomach cancer and possibly cancer of the throat and mouth.
Anemia in Cancer Patients
Anemia is particularly serious in cancer patients. In people with many common cancers, the presence of anemia is associated with a shorter survival time. Anemia may exacerbate the toxicity of chemotherapy in elderly cancer patients.