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Anemia occurs when there are not enough red blood cells or when the hemoglobin is not working properly to carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Red blood cells are made in the bone marrow. They live for about three months in the circulating bloodstream before the spleen clears them away. Hemoglobin is a special protein inside red blood cells that carries oxygen. The number of red blood cells your child requires depends on his or her gender, age and ethnic background.
A reduced number of red blood cells may be caused by:
Other causes of anemia include blood loss, severe inflammation, thyroid problems, kidney disease, recurrent infections, celiac disease and, rarely, cancer.
Anyone can have anemia. There are more than 3 million people with the condition in the U.S. The most common type of anemia is iron deficiency anemia, which frequently affects women due to menstruation and children (especially toddlers). Anemia is not contagious.
There are many causes of anemia. Some types of anemia are inherited, but most are acquired. Inherited causes of anemia usually imply that an individual will always have anemia unless he or she receives special treatments. This may or may not affect the individual’s lifespan. Acquired types of anemia go away when the underlying problem goes away. For example, if anemia is caused by a poor diet, then diet modification and sometimes supplements will resolve the anemia. If the anemia is caused by excessive bleeding, then evaluation for a bleeding disorder and its correction would be necessary to resolve the anemia. Acquired types of anemia that are treated usually do not affect an individual’s lifespan, and individuals may be able to donate blood in the future without problems.
Symptoms of anemia vary depending on the cause but may include:
The presence and intensity of symptoms parallel the severity of the anemia.
Doctors at Riley at IU Health diagnose anemia by reviewing your child's medical history, conducting a thorough examination and performing a blood test.
Additional tests may be needed to determine what type of anemia your child has. These additional tests are usually blood tests but could possibly include a bone marrow test, because the bone marrow is where red blood cells are made. Additional testing may also include imaging studies.
Treatment for anemia varies greatly and depends on the cause and severity of the condition. Some treatments may be done at home while other treatments require hospital visits. Treatment may include:
The type of anemia dictates the type of treatment. Most of the time, pediatricians and hematologists work together to take care of patients with anemia. Sometimes surgeons are involved because select patients have to undergo splenectomies (surgery to remove part or all of the spleen).
Learn more about anemia by visiting the following recommended websites:
Riley at IU Health offers a broad range of supportive services to make life better for families who choose us for their children's care.
The Cancer & Blood Diseases Department at Riley at IU Health participates in ongoing research to improve treatment and outcomes in children with anemia. Speak with your child's doctor for more information about current research studies.
In addition to our primary hospital location at the Academic Health Center in Indianapolis, IN, we have convenient locations to better serve our communities throughout the state.
Pediatric Cancer & Blood Diseases
11700 N Meridian St
Carmel, IN 46032