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What Is the Treatment for a Low Red Blood Cell Count?

Red blood cells in a blood vessel.
Red blood cells.
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  • Written By: Jodee Redmond
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 15 April 2014
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A person with a low red blood cell count has anemia. This medical condition causes fatigue and a lack of energy. Once diagnosed, a doctor may recommend blood transfusions or taking medication to increase blood cell production. An anemia patient can help to relieve the symptoms of this disorder by eating well and making sure that he or she gets enough rest.

The red blood cells in the body are necessary to transport oxygen to the organs and tissues. A blood test can measure the hemoglobin level in the body. Normal levels range from 12-18 and if the reading is 10 or below, the patient is diagnosed with anemia.

An individual who is undergoing cancer treatments will likely have his or her red blood cell count measured regularly. He or she will be instructed to tell the treating physician if he or she experiences shortness of breath or fatigue, since these are both signs of anemia. Other signs of anemia are chest pain and dizziness. If the condition is severe enough, cancer treatments must either be stopped for a time or the level of chemotherapy drugs must be reduced until the red blood cell count returns to a level in the normal range.

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Anemia may be treated with one or more blood transfusions. Receiving blood from a donor who does not have this condition will cause a higher level of red blood cells in the patient's body. Medications may be prescribed to help to increase the red blood cell count. Before taking this step, the doctor and the patient need to weigh the risks of this type of therapy versus the benefits that it offers. Using medication for this purpose may be the right choice in a situation where the patient objects to having a blood transfusion, either for personal or religious reasons.

A patient who has been diagnosed with a low red blood cell count can help his or her recovery progress by making sure that he or she takes time out to rest. Some people find it easier to deal with this condition if they plan their activities around the time of day that they feel most energetic.

Eating well is an important part of staying healthy, and it's even more crucial after an anemia diagnosis. A diet that includes fruits and vegetables will provide the nutrients needed to help bring the blood cell count back to normal. Working with a dietitian can help an anemia patient make good choices about which foods to eat.

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pastanaga
Post 3

@umbra21 - That's interesting, because I've heard that they often ask the family of chemotherapy patients to give blood, so that they have some on hand for the patient if they need it for anemia.

Obviously not all of them will be an exact match, but it's likely someone will be. And of course, the blood can always go elsewhere.

I think they also do it so that the family and friends have something to do, so they don't feel so powerless. Even if they can't do anything else to help, at least they can give blood.

umbra21
Post 2

@Mor - My whole family tends towards anemia, just naturally. We try to get enough iron from eating steak and things like that, but it is good to be able to fall back on an iron tablet.

I try to give blood whenever I can, which I know sounds like a bad idea, but they check to make sure your red blood cell count is healthy before they take your blood.

Afterwards I always feel quite woozy and exhausted though. Which I imagine is what someone with ore severe anemia feels like all the time. And I don't envy them.

Because I can just have a sleep, and some sugar and an iron tab and feel better in the morning. Whereas they might need to have a transfusion.

I guess that's another reason to give blood.

Mor
Post 1

I tend to let my iron run low, because I follow a mostly vegetarian diet. I know, I can get iron from some vegetable sources, but sometimes I don't quite manage it, and I run quite a lot as well.

Running can cause you to lower your red blood cell count slightly. They think it might be because you damage the red cells in your feet.

At any rate, my usual symptom is feeling tired, but I also get kind of depressed. I'm not sure if this is because of the fatigue or not.

So, my advice is, if you feel kind of depressed and tired, try taking an iron tablet to see if it makes you feel any better.

Either that or get some more spinach and other leafy greens into your diet, as they are supposed to provide more iron.

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