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Causes of anemia

The three main causes of anemia are:

  • Blood loss 
  • Lack of red blood cell production 
  • High rates of red blood cell destruction 
  • Some people have anemia due to more than one of these factors. 

Blood Loss

Blood loss is the most common cause of anemia, especially iron-deficiency anemia. Blood loss can be short term or persist over time.

Bleeding in the digestive tract or heavy menstrual periods can cause blood loss. Other causes of blood loss include surgery, trauma, or cancer.

Lack of Red Blood Cell Production

Both acquired and inherited conditions and factors can prevent your body from making enough red blood cells.

Examples of acquired conditions and factors that can prevent your body from making enough red blood cells include diet, hormones, some chronic diseases, and pregnancy.

Aplastic anemia also can prevent your body from making enough red blood cells. This condition can be acquired or inherited.

Diet

A diet that lacks iron, folic acid (folate), or vitamin B12 can prevent your body from making enough red blood cells. Your body also needs small amounts of vitamin C, riboflavin, and copper to make red blood cells.

Conditions that make it hard for your body to absorb nutrients also can prevent your body from making enough red blood cells.

Hormones

Your body needs the hormone erythropoietin (eh-rith-ro-POY-eh-tin) to make red blood cells. This hormone stimulates the bone marrow to make these cells. A low level of this hormone can lead to anemia.

Diseases and Disease Treatments

Kidney disease and cancer can make it hard for your body to make enough red blood cells.

Cancer treatments may also damage the bone marrow or damage the red blood cells’ ability to carry oxygen. With bone marrow is damage, you cannot make red blood cells fast enough to replace the ones were destroyed or damaged.

People who have HIV/AIDS may develop anemia due to medicines they take for their disease or infections.

Aplastic Anemia

Aplastic anemia is a condition in infants and children who are unable to make enough red blood cells. Infants and children who have aplastic anemia often need blood transfusions to increase the number of red blood cells in their blood.

Other factors or acquired conditions, such as certain medicines, infectious diseases, and certain toxins can also cause aplastic anemia.

High Rates of Red Blood Cell Destruction

Both acquired and inherited conditions and factors can cause your body to destroy too many red blood cells.

An enlarged or diseased spleen can cause high rates of red blood cell destruction. The spleen is an organ that removes old red blood cells from the body. If the spleen is diseased or enlarged, it may remove more red blood cells than normal which can result in anemia.

Sickle cell anemia, thalassemias, and lack of certain enzymes are inherited conditions that can cause your body to destroy red blood cells. These conditions create defects in the red blood cells that cause them to die faster than healthy red blood cells.

Hemolytic anemia is a condition in which your body destroys too many red blood cells. Examples include immune disorders, infections, certain medicines, or reactions to blood transfusions. This type of anemia may be acquired or inherited.

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