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What Is Acute Anemia?

Iron mineral supplement.
People with anemia often don't have enough red blood cells.
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  • Written By: Susan Grindstaff
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 08 April 2014
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Anemia, sometimes referred to as “low blood,” describes a condition that occurs when the red blood cell count within the blood is low. When the condition develops over an extended period of time, it is called chronic anemia. If the anemia has sudden onset, it is referred to as acute anemia. When anemia is acute, it usually indicates blood loss somewhere in the body, though in some cases, other conditions may be the cause.

Acute anemia is usually taken very seriously by doctors, because it could indicate a life-threatening condition. Internal bleeding resulting from the rupture of a blood vessel can sometimes cause an acute form of anemia. Sometime blood loss caused by bleeding ulcers or internal hemorrhaging can also be severe enough to cause sudden anemia. One of the first things doctors usually do is to try to pinpoint the cause, as this knowledge will be necessary to accurately treat the condition.

Some diseases can also cause an acute type of anemia. Some of those diseases include hemophilia, acquired platelet disorder, and hemophilic disorders that sometimes accompany lupus. In addition, acute anemia is often one of the first symptoms of leukemia.

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Various methods of testing may be done to determine the exact cause of the anemia and the extent of its severity. One common method is a test of stool culture, because internal bleeding, no matter how slight, will usually show up in the stool. Stools are placed on a card that has been processed with chemicals that cause the card to turn blue if blood is detected. This type of test is called a fecal occult test. Doctors will also normally check vitamin and iron levels by taking a blood culture.

Symptoms of acute anemia usually vary according to the severity, but may often include weakness, sleepiness, and pallor. Some people who suffer from acute anemia complain of cold hands and feet, and may often feel dizzy and disoriented. Fainting spells and memory are not uncommon in people suffering from the condition. With chronic anemia, symptoms usually develop very slowly, and may go unnoticed for quite some time, however, with acute anemia, the symptoms are usually sudden and intense.

Both acute and chronic anemia typically require prompt treatment. Acute anemia could require immediate blood transfusions to bring up the red blood cell count. In conjunction with transfusions, most people who suffer from acute anemia are advised to take iron supplements and to begin eating iron-rich foods. Iron is believed to be essential in raising red blood cell levels.

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Discuss this Article

stoneMason
Post 7

@lighth0se33-- I'm sorry to hear that. Is sepsis a type of internal bleeding?

literally45
Post 6

@fBoyle-- I think there are other things that doctors look for. For example, if there is chronic anemia due to a chronic illness, not only will there be less red blood cells in the blood, but their size will also be affected.

In acute anemia, the size of the blood cells are usually unchanged, it's just that their numbers are less than normal. This shows that anemia took place suddenly, rather than slowly and over a longer period of time.

I'm sure there are other such signs and symptoms that lab technicians and doctors can identify to differentiate the two. I just don't know them all.

lighth0se33
Post 5

Acute anemia was one of my brother's renal failure symptoms. His kidneys had stopped receiving the amount of blood that they needed, so the doctors investigated and found that he had sepsis. They were able to treat him, but he had to stay in the hospital for a month!

fBoyle
Post 4

So is the sudden onset of anemic symptoms the primary way to diagnose acute anemia?

Because if someone has never had a blood test, or hasn't had one for a while, how can doctors know if the anemia developed recently or if it has been present for some time?

Perdido
Post 3

I guess the good thing about acute severe anemia is that the person suffering from it is most likely already in a hospital. Whenever someone is in some type of accident that could cause internal injuries and bleeding, they most likely go straight to the emergency room.

Doctors check for internal injuries, because acute anemia could lead to death rather quickly. That's why it would be so dangerous for someone who didn't go to the hospital after an accident.

giddion
Post 2

@DylanB – I think that when someone with sickle cell becomes anemic, they suffer from the chronic kind. This is because it happens often and takes several days to occur.

I have a friend with this disease, and she has to have blood transfusions now and then. The disease causes her red blood cells to have a strange shape and to stick together, so they can't deliver the oxygen all over the body.

Since there is no cure for this disease, it's considered chronic. I believe that the anemia associated with it must be chronic, as well.

DylanB
Post 1

I know that anemic symptoms are associated with sickle cell disease. Do people with this disease usually get acute or chronic anemia?

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