011 482-3010

What Is Anemia?

Anemia is a condition in which the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to your body’s tissues.

There are many different types of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term. It can be mild or severe.

The most common type of anemia is iron deficiency anemia. It occurs when the body does not have enough iron.

Iron is needed to make hemoglobin, a part of red blood cells that carries oxygen. Anemia can lead to fatigue, pale skin, and shortness of breath. There are many different types of anemia, but the most common type is iron-deficiency anemia.

Anemia can be caused by a lack of iron in the diet or by blood loss, anemia can also be caused by other conditions such as kidney disease, cancer, or certain medications.

Treatment for anemia will depend on the cause. If the anemia is due to a lack of iron, then iron supplements may be recommended. If the anemia is due to blood loss, then the cause of the blood loss will need to be confirmed.

Let’s take a closer look at anemia and how it can be treated.


What Causes Anemia?

Anemia is a condition in which your blood lacks the proper amount of red blood cells. Anemia can be due to a condition present at birth or to a condition you develop.

Anemia can be caused by bleeding, iron deficiency, or certain chronic diseases. Bleeding can occur inside the body, such as from a gastric ulcer, or externally, such as from a cut.

Iron deficiency occurs when the body does not have enough iron to make red blood cells.

Iron is found in food  and supplements. It is also recycled from old red blood cells.

Certain chronic diseases, such as kidney disease and cancer, can also cause anemia.

anemia causes - Anemia: What It Is and How to Treat It


Types of Anemia


Iron Deficiency Anemia
Iron deficiency anemia is a blood disorder that occurs when there is not enough iron in the body. The body needs iron to produce hemoglobin, which is a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to the body’s tissues.

When there is not enough iron, the body cannot produce enough hemoglobin, and the result is anemia. Symptoms of iron deficiency anemia can include fatigue, pale skin, shortness of breath, and dizziness.

If left untreated, iron deficiency anemia can lead to serious health problems, such as heart failure and difficulty swallowing.

Iron deficiency anemia is treated by taking iron supplements and eating foods that are rich in iron. In severe cases, a blood transfusion may be necessary.

Vitamin Deficiency Anemia
Vitamin deficiency anemia is a disease which is characterized by a reduction in the number of red blood cell, or erythrocyte, in the bloodstream. The lower number of red blood corpuscles is caused by either a deficiency of iron and folic acid, or by a lack of vitamin B12 or other vitamins necessary for adequate production of red blood cells.

Anemia of Inflammation
Anemia of inflammation is a condition that affects some patients with an autoimmune disease. It usually occurs during the latter stages of an acute disease (which causes an increased production of red blood cells).

Hemolytic Anemia
Hemolytic anemia is a disorder in which red blood cells are destroyed faster than they can be made. The destruction of red blood cells is called hemolysis. Red blood cells carry oxygen to all parts of your body. If you have a lower-than-normal amount of red blood cells, you have anemia.

Sickle Cell Anemia
Sickle cell anemia is a blood disorder in which the red blood cells are crescent shaped. People with sickle cell anemia have abnormal hemoglobin, which causes the red blood cells to be sticky and to change shape when they are low on oxygen. The red blood cells can block small blood vessels, which can cause pain, organ damage, and other problems.

types of anemia - Anemia: What It Is and How to Treat It

Symptoms of Anemia

Anemia can cause a variety of symptoms, which can be mild or severe. The most common symptom of anemia is fatigue.
This is because the lack of RBCs means that less oxygen is being carried to the body’s cells.

Other symptoms of anemia include:

  • Pale skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness and light headedness
  • Headaches
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Irregular Heartbeats
  • Chest pain

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to see a doctor for a diagnosis.


How To Treat Anemia?

Treating anemia depends on the cause. If the cause is a lack of iron, you may need to take iron supplements. If the cause is a blood disorder, you may need medication or blood transfusions. In some cases, surgery may be necessary.

If you think you may have anemia, it’s important to see a doctor so that the cause can be found and treated.


how to treat anemia - Anemia: What It Is and How to Treat It


Risk Factors

There are many risk factors for anemia, some of which are more common than others.

Here are a few of the most common risk factors for anemia:

  • Heavy menstrual bleeding: This is a common cause of anemia in women of childbearing age. 
  • Blood loss: Blood loss can occur due to injury, surgery, or other conditions such as ulcers or cancer. 
  • Pregnancy: Pregnancy can cause anemia due to the increased demand for iron by the growing baby. 
  • Chronic illness: Conditions such as kidney disease, heart disease, and lung disease can lead to anemia. 
  • Medications: Some medications, such as those used to treat cancer, can cause anemia. 


If you’re looking to improve your anemia diet, there are a few key nutrients you’ll want to focus on.

First, iron is essential for carrying oxygen in your blood. Make sure to include plenty of iron-rich foods in your diet, such as:

  • Beef
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Beans

You may also want to consider taking an iron supplement. Folic acid is another important nutrient for anemia.

It helps your body produce new red blood cells, and can be found in leafy greens, legumes, and fortified foods.

Vitamin B12 is also important for red blood cell production. Good sources of vitamin B12 include meat, poultry, fish, and eggs.


anemia infographic - Anemia: What It Is and How to Treat It

When You Should See a Doctor

Anemia is a serious condition and can have a number of negative effects on your health.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible. Anemia can be caused by a number of different things, including a lack of iron in your diet.

If you are a woman of childbearing age, you may be at a higher risk for anemia due to blood loss during menstruation.

If you have any other risk factors for anemia, such as a family history of the disease, you should talk to your doctor about getting tested.

If you think you might be low in iron, talk to your doctor about how to get more of this important mineral.

Dr. Schneider is located at the Millpark Hospital, Parktown, Johannesburg.

Services offered include consultation, and endoscopy procedures, including gastroscopy, colonoscopy and video capsule endoscopy.

For more information on the diagnosis and treatment of abdominal pain in Johannesburg, contact Dr. Schneider or book your consultation today.


The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.