Anemias Caused by Inherited Blood Disease
More than three million Americans have anemia, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Anemia is a condition in which you have an insufficient amount of normal red blood cells in your body or your red blood cells don't have enough of the protein hemoglobin to carry oxygen to your body's tissues. There are many forms of anemia, ranging from temporary to long term, mild to severe, acquired to genetic.
People with a family history of blood diseases are at greater risk of having inherited anemias, including sickle cell anemia, thalassemia and aplastic anemia.
- People with sickle cell anemia suffer from curve-shaped red blood cells, which block the flow of blood to organs and limbs. The body destroys these sickle cells, but it cannot make new red blood cells fast enough.
- Thalassemia is the production of less hemoglobin and fewer red blood cells than normal. As a result, an affected person can have mild to severe anemia.
- Aplastic anemia is a rare genetic blood disorder in which the body stops making enough red blood cells. This affects all blood cells -- red cells, white cells and platelets -- resulting in anemia. Because the white blood cell count is so low, the body is unable to fight infections, and without enough platelets, the blood cannot clot normally.
Women and people with chronic diseases are at the greatest risk for anemia, so it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms. If your family has a history of blood disorders such as anemia, you should have a blood test done by your doctor.
The initial symptoms of anemia may include fatigue, weakness, dizziness, headache, numbness or coldness in your hands and feet, and a low body temperature. As the anemia gets worse, you may experience rapid or irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, and chest pain. These symptoms occur because your heart is working harder to pump oxygen-rich blood to the rest of your body's tissues.