Anemia is a condition where the number of healthy red blood cells (RBCs) in the blood is lower than normal. RBCs transport oxygen throughout the body, so a shortage of these cells can be serious.
Iron-deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia. It commonly affects children and women of all ages – especially women who are menstruating. It's estimated that at least 2 out of every 10 women in North America have iron-poor blood. It can also seriously affect men when it is caused by colon polyps, colon cancer, or other gastrointestinal (GI) malignancies (cancers). Iron-deficiency anemia is often one of the first warning signals that a person may have a GI malignancy.
Sickle cell anemia is another well-known type of anemia. This condition affects millions of people worldwide. It is a hereditary disease, passed on to children by parents with the altered genetic material. People most commonly affected include those of African, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, or Indian descent. Every year, 1 in 12 babies of African descent are born with a genetic potential to pass sickle cell anemia on to their children. It's estimated that 1 out of 400 babies of African descent will have the disease.
Aplastic anemia is a form of anemia where the bone marrow stops producing all types of blood cells. This type of anemia is very serious, but fortunately rare. It affects 2 to 12 out of every 1 million people each year. Aplastic anemia occurs in both adults and children.
Anemia of chronic disease is a mild form of anemia that occurs with people who have diseases that last more than 1 to 2 months. Such diseases include tuberculosis, HIV, cancer, kidney disease, rheumatologic disorders, and liver disease.
Pernicious anemia is a form of anemia more common in elderly people and is caused by either a lack of dietary intake or poor absorption of vitamin B12 from the diet. It is also a common condition seen in alcoholics.