Anemia is a condition in which the body is not producing enough red blood cells, causing a deficiency in the amount of circulating cells. This can be the result of different conditions and diseases in the body.
The most common cause of anemia is iron-deficiency anemia. The body stores iron in the bone marrow, and it uses this iron to produce hemoglobin (red blood cells). If the body uses its stores up, it becomes unable to continue to make these cells, resulting in anemia. Iron-deficiency anemia can be caused by a lack of iron in the diet. This is more commonly seen in infants who are not receiving iron supplementation or an iron-enriched formula. Anemia can also be seen in conditions related to a chronic blood loss. This includes bleeding ulcers or, in females, monthly menstruation. Additionally, the body may have difficulty absorbing iron in the intestinal system. This can be seen in conditions like inflammatory bowel disease and celiac disease or in conditions involving parasites like hookworm.
Anemia can also be caused by vitamin deficiency. The body needs folate and vitamin B12 to produce enough red blood cells. A lack of these vitamins could be related to diet intake or an inability of the body to absorb certain vitamins. Absorption problems can be seen in diseases such as alcoholism, certain cancers, complications from gastric surgery or an overgrowth of bacteria. Vitamin deficiencies can also been seen in individuals with kidney failure or as a side effect of chemotherapy treatments.