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How do I Treat Anemia?

Treating anemia hinges on its cause, from iron-rich foods and supplements for iron deficiency to medication for chronic diseases. A balanced diet and proper medical guidance are key. Intrigued by the role of vitamin B12 or folic acid? Discover how these nutrients can be game-changers in your journey to better health. What could your path to recovery look like? Continue reading to explore.
D. Jeffress
D. Jeffress

Anemia is a medical disorder that involves a lack of healthy red blood cells and oxygen-producing hemoglobin in the bloodstream, because of a genetic condition, an iron deficiency, or a lack of essential vitamins. People with anemia often experience fatigue, headaches, dizziness, and chest pain. There are several home remedies and nonprescription methods used to treat anemia, such as eating iron-rich foods, taking dietary supplements, exercising regularly, and getting enough rest. For more severe cases, doctors might prescribe oral medication or order a bone marrow transplant or a blood transfusion.

Many people with iron or vitamin deficiencies can successfully treat anemia by employing simple home remedies. Doctors often suggest that anemic patients eat foods with high vitamin and iron contents, such as apples, bananas, tomatoes, honey, and cereals. The minerals found in such foods replenish hemoglobin levels in the bloodstream. Many people can supplement their food intake with iron and vitamin B-12 pills, as well as engage in regular exercise and rest. Healthy, mineral-rich diets and daily exercise routines help to relieve anemia symptoms in most individuals.

A blood transfusion can help treat anemia.
A blood transfusion can help treat anemia.

Depending on the nature and severity of a person's disorder, a doctor may decide that clinical attention is needed to treat anemia. A doctor may administer regular injections of vitamin B-12 or other minerals, often for several years, to help an individual maintain healthy levels of nutrients and vitamins. A physician or hematologist may also inject a synthetic hormone known as erythropoietin directly into an anemic patient's bloodstream. Erythropoietin injections accelerate the rate and frequency in which the human body produces new red blood cells.

Eating apples and other healthy foods may help treat anemia.
Eating apples and other healthy foods may help treat anemia.

An anemic individual may have an immune system disorder in which his or her body mistakenly attacks its own healthy red blood cells, destroying them and lowering oxygen levels in the blood. Upon careful tests and diagnoses by physicians, such an individual may be given immune-suppressing medications. Anemic patients may also be prescribed painkillers, antibiotics, and certain steroids to provide relief and promote red blood cell production.

Increasing the level of iron in the body is one way to treat anemia.
Increasing the level of iron in the body is one way to treat anemia.

A blood transfusion or bone marrow transplant may be required to treat anemia in a patient whose body has not had success with other treatments. An individual may need to have his or blood removed and replaced with healthy donor blood. A patient might be required to undergo several transfusions in order to treat anemia symptoms that come back over time. Patients with diseased bone marrow that cannot effectively produce healthy blood cells commonly undergo bone marrow transplants. Transplants are usually painful, time-consuming, and expensive, though they are very effective in most cases.

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Discussion Comments


These values are low, but not excessively low for someone her age (they are low, though). The RBC and other components are made in the bone marrow, and the production decreases with age. That said, yes, definitely get a second opinion. Real soon.

The bilirubin level indicates it's not a hemolytic anemia. The name is "non-hemolytic anemia". There are many, many causes of non-hemolytic anemia.

Thrush is a sign of a suppressed immune system. I get it almost constantly, as I have a suppressed immune system due to corticosteroid use for breathing. If her COPD treatment is not correct (i.e. she hasn't had it checked "retitrated" in more than two years) get that done ASAP. Wrong pressure and low O2 will substantially contribute to being tired (and suppress a lot of physiology).

As far as supplements, use with extreme caution. More is not better.

Here are the usual suggestions:

1) One folic acid pill a day

2) One, and only one, iron pill, plus one Vitamin D3 a day. Caution: If she has *any* GI problems, now or in the past, the iron will cause more problems than it's worth.

3) One Vitamin C (with the iron). The amount doesn't matter since the body doesn't store Vitamin C.

For folic acid, pick the lowest mg you can find. Iron comes in a standard concentration, called 62-ish mg or 325 mg. The latter is iron combined with something else and the net release to the body is 62 (or 65?) mg.

Finally, see if you can find a hematologist who specializes in older people. Call or check the web site of the American Society of Hematology, which will also have guidelines. Body physiology changes substantially after ~70 years old, and is modified by the patient's previous and current health conditions. Most hematology programs are only now including that info.

Finally, thrush and COPD do not indicate anemia.

To summarize:

1) Very carefully start vitamins - and more is not better. Beware of iron causing GI pain.

2) Get COPD re-titrated in a sleep lab ASAP. I can promise you that will help tremendously (it did for me)

3) Get a second opinion, check the ASH web site or local doctor referral for one who specializes in elderly patients.


My Mother's blood work results are as follows:

WBC 3.9

RBC 4.03

HGB 11.4

HCT 34.7

RDW 15.8

Bili 0.1

These are the abnormal values. Her doctor said because she is 78 years old these values are normal and her blood work has been this way for a while. She is very tired, has COPD and thrush in her mouth, indicating that her immune system is suppressed and she has some form of anemia.

How do I determine what kind of anemia she has? Are there any supplements, vitamins or particular foods that I can provide her? Do you think I should seek a second opinion? Thank you, Kim

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    • A blood transfusion can help treat anemia.
      By: .shock
      A blood transfusion can help treat anemia.
    • Eating apples and other healthy foods may help treat anemia.
      By: denphumi
      Eating apples and other healthy foods may help treat anemia.
    • Increasing the level of iron in the body is one way to treat anemia.
      By: Andrei
      Increasing the level of iron in the body is one way to treat anemia.
    • Injections of Vitamin B-12 may be necessary for some anemics.
      By: alexskopje
      Injections of Vitamin B-12 may be necessary for some anemics.
    • Anemia is characterized by chronic fatigue.
      By: dundanim
      Anemia is characterized by chronic fatigue.