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Anemia is a low level of red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout your body. Many things can cause anemia. Lack of iron is one of the most common causes. Your body needs iron to make hemoglobin, a substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to your body's cells. Without enough iron, the body produces fewer and smaller red blood cells. As a result, your body's cells do not get enough oxygen, and you feel tired and weak. And you may have trouble concentrating.
Bleeding is the most common cause of a lack of iron. You may have heavy menstrual bleeding or bleeding caused by conditions such as ulcers, hemorrhoids, or cancer. Regular use of aspirin or other anti-inflammatory medicines (such as ibuprofen) also can cause bleeding in some people. A lack of iron in your diet also can cause anemia, especially at times when the body needs more iron, such as during pregnancy, infancy, and the teen years.
Your doctor may have prescribed iron pills. It may take several months of treatment for your iron levels to return to normal. Your doctor also may suggest that you eat foods that are rich in iron, such as meat and beans.
There are many other causes of anemia. It is not always due to a lack of iron. Finding the specific cause of your anemia will help your doctor find the right treatment for you.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:
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Current as of: May 6, 2018
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & Caroline S. Rhoads MD - Internal Medicine
Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.
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