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How to Identify Your Type of Anemia

3 min read

woman having blood drawn

We all want to be able to do the things we love doing. That means being physically and mentally active so we can maintain our good health.

For those who struggle with fatigue, lethargy or weakness, it can be hard to maintain a healthy routine.

While everyone experiences fatigue and weakness from time to time, others endure these symptoms on a daily basis as a result of an underlying condition.

What Is Anemia?

Anemia occurs when the body does not have enough red blood cells (RBCs). Red blood cells contain a protein called hemoglobin, which carries oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body. 

Without enough RBCs, your body does not get the level of oxygen or nutrients required to perform regular functions, resulting in feelings of weakness, lethargy and fatigue.

 

Understanding the root cause of your anemic symptoms is essential to combatting the condition. 

 

There are many reasons why someone may have a reduced RBC count. Some people simply don’t produce enough red blood cells; others struggle with some disease that destroys RBCs; in other cases, anemia develops as a result a nutritional deficiency or blood loss.

Understanding the root cause of your anemic symptoms is essential to combatting the condition. If you find yourself feeling unusually weak or fatigued, the first course of action is to identify the cause. Knowing what’s wrong with your body is essential to your feeling more energy live a more active life, and that requires finding out what the underlying cause may be.

How Do Doctors Diagnose Anemia?

To assess whether or not you have anemia, doctors will conduct a preliminary interview to learn about your medical history. After this, they will likely perform a physical and run several different tests.

These tests may include a complete blood count (CBC) test, which determines the number, size, volume and level of hemoglobin in your RBCs. They will also test your iron and serum ferritin levels, which will indicate whether or not you have enough iron in the blood, as well as checking your B12 and folate levels. 

The tests will not only help to determine if you have anemia, they will also help to identify the type of anemia that you have, as well as any underlying issues that may be causing the anemia.

What Are the Different Types of Anemia?

The most common type of anemia is iron deficiency (low iron) anemia, but it's important to remember that low iron anemia is only one type of anemia. Other anemic conditions include: 

  • Vitamin B deficiency anemia— caused by low levels of B12 or folate in the body.
  • Anemia of chronic disease— caused by illnesses like HIV, rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn's disease or others.
  • Aplastic anemia — caused by a lack of production of RBCs; a rare condition that can be life-threatening.
  • Anemias associated with bone marrow disease — the result of other illnesses that affect the bone marrow, which may include certain types of cancer or myelofibrosis.
  • Hemolytic anemia — Caused when red blood cells are destroyed faster than bone marrow can replace them. This condition can be inherited or may develop later in life.
  • Sickle cell anemia — A hereditary disease caused by a defective form of hemoglobin that changes the shape of RBCs into a sickle-like form, which leads them to die prematurely and results in a shortage of RBCs. 

Knowing the cause of anemia allows your physician to manage and treat your condition. It’s the first proactive step toward achieving a healthier, more active lifestyle.