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What is Chronic Anemia?

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  • Written By: J.M. Densing
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 05 December 2016
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Anemia is a condition where a person does not have enough red blood cells, leading to a lowered level of hemoglobin. If this condition persists, usually longer than two to six months, it is considered chronic anemia. Red blood cells and hemoglobin play a vital role carrying oxygen to the rest of the body, and a deficiency can lead to a variety of unpleasant symptoms. Chronic anemia can be primary, meaning it is part of the patient's main medical diagnosis, or secondary, that is, caused by another underlying medical problem.

One of the most important components of blood are the red blood cells, and a person with chronic anemia lacks a sufficient amount of these vital cells. This condition is commonly called a low red blood cell count. Red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to all other parts of the body and transport carbon dioxide back. They utilize a molecule called hemoglobin as the vehicle of transport; when there is a lack of hemoglobin, also called hemoglobin deficiency, the tissues and organs of the body won't get enough oxygen, leading to fatigue-like symptoms.

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Symptoms of chronic anemia include lack of energy, pale skin, weakness, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, palpitations, dizziness, and irritability. Some other less common symptoms include fainting, chest pain, difficulty sleeping, ringing in the ears, inability to concentrate, and impotence. Most of these symptoms are caused by the lack of vital oxygen to body tissues. Many patients with chronic anemia adapt to their condition and show very few symptoms unless there is a sudden change in their hemoglobin levels.

Potential causes of chronic anemia are divided into three main groups: anemia caused by blood loss, by lowered or flawed red blood cell manufacture, or by the destruction of red blood cells. One of the most common of these is iron deficiency, which reduces the body's ability to manufacture red blood cells and hemoglobin.

Chronic anemia always has an underlying cause. When the cause is a disorder which mainly affects the blood, such as sickle cell disease, it is considered primary chronic anemia since it is often a normal part of the disease. When it is caused by a non-hematological condition such as alcoholism, cancer, tuberculosis, or renal problems, it is considered secondary because it a symptom of another disease process. There are more than 400 possible causes, and effective treatment usually depends upon treating the underlying cause.

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literally45
Post 7

I have anemia of chronic disease because of Crohn's. It's a weird type of anemia. I don't quite understand it but my doctor says that I have enough iron, but the iron doesn't get released because of the inflammation caused by Crohn's disease.

My treatment hasn't started yet, I just found out the diagnosis and I'm trying to learn more about it.

Does anyone else have anemia of chronic disease?

ysmina
Post 6

@feruze-- It's very dangerous for pregnant women to have chronic anemia. Red blood cells are responsible for transporting oxygen throughout the body. In the case of pregnancy, these cells also deliver oxygen to the baby. So it can have terrible consequences.

If chronic anemia is caused by an iron deficiency, that's also dangerous because it will affect the child's growth.

Pregnant women have to be very careful about this, especially if they have a history of anemia or experience anemia symptoms like fatigue and dizziness.

bear78
Post 5

What are the dangers of chronic anemia during pregnancy?

feasting
Post 4

@kylee07drg – Sometimes I wonder if doctors make kids take that nasty tasting supplement instead of swallowing a pill just to motivate them to eat healthier! I remember having to take it as a child, and it was enough to make me change the way I ate.

Sometimes, an iron deficiency leading to anemia is caused by starvation instead of just a poor diet, though. I found a starving puppy in the road, and the vet said he was severely anemic.

I had to give him a liquid iron supplement from a syringe for about two weeks! It worked, though, because he is super healthy today.

kylee07drg
Post 3

I had iron deficiency symptoms as a child. My diet consisted mostly of pasta, popsicles, potato chips, and candy, so it's no wonder!

I had to take this awful tasting liquid iron supplement that nearly made me vomit. This motivated me to listen to my mother and eat more healthy foods.

shell4life
Post 2

Sickle cell anemia is hard to live with. My sister has this disease, and she has episodes of severe pain and has to have blood transfusions every now and then.

Her red blood cells are shaped weird, so they stick to each other and don't get to where they need to go. This causes her to have chronic anemia, and sometimes, it's worse than others.

orangey03
Post 1

I have a friend who suffers from anorexia. She is showing anemia symptoms, and I've tried to talk her into getting help, but she doesn't want it.

She's afraid that if she goes to a doctor, he will force her to gain weight, and that is the worst thing possible in her mind. Nevermind the fact that she is so weak that she faints sometimes and is as pale as a ghost. That doesn't concern her.

I know that anemia is just one of the many bad things that this disorder can cause. I'm afraid these symptoms are just the first in a long line of many that I will have to watch her go through.

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