Anemia (uh-NEE-mee-uh) is a common blood disorder that happens when the level of healthy red blood cells (RBCs) in the body becomes too low.
Red blood cells contain hemoglobin, a protein that transports oxygen throughout the body. If the body's tissues don't get enough oxygen, it can cause a variety of complications, including fatigue and stress on organs. Many things can lead to low levels of RBCs, but the three main causes are:
Anemia can be temporary or can last for a long time. There are many different types of anemia, with different causes and different treatments. Inherited disorders, nutritional problems (such as a vitamin or iron deficiency), infections, some kinds of cancer, or exposure to a drug or toxin all can lead to anemia.
Treatment for anemia depends on what's causing the low level of RBCs. In many cases, this means something as simple as eating foods rich in iron or taking vitamin supplements. Other cases will require more involved treatments. Kids often tolerate anemia much better than adults.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.
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