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Anemia is due to lack of haemoglobin in the blood which is below the normal level or due to less than normal levels of red blood cells in blood.
The haemoglobin helps carry oxygen in blood. Lack of haemoglobin thus causes deficiency of life giving oxygen to vital organs. (1-4)
There are various causes of anemia. It could be due to:
Anemia most commonly occurs due to nutritional problems. This includes lack of iron in the diet.
Iron deficiency is the commonest form of anemia.
In the United States 7% of toddlers ages 1 to 2 years old and 9-16% of menstruating women suffer from iron deficiency.
The poorer nations 30-70% of the people have iron deficiency anemia.
Since iron is needed for the manufacture of haemoglobin in the body its deficiency can lead to anemia.
Iron is found in meat, dried fruit and some vegetables.
Lack of iron may be caused due to bleeding especially in stomach ulcers or within the intestines.
Women before menopause commonly suffer from iron deficiency anemia due to heavy periods and increased demands during pregnancy.
Certain vitamins like vitamin B12 and folic acid or folate are also essential in the normal production of RBCs in blood. Their lack in diet may lead to anemia.
Both vitamin B12 deficiency and folate deficiency are more common in older people, affecting around 1 in 10 people above the age of 75.
There is an inherited condition called Pernicious anemia where patients find it difficult to use the vitamin B 12 in diet for production of healthy RBCs. This is a rare condition and affects 1 in 10,000 people in northern Europe.