Microcytic anemia is a medical term that refers to inadequate size of red blood cells. Namely, in such condition red blood cells (erythrocytes) are quite small, smaller than they are supposed to be. In patients suffering from microcytic anemia a blood parameter called Mean Cell Volume (MCV) is less than 80 cubic mm. The condition accompanies, apart from this, abnormal appearance of erythrocytes characterized by reduced hemoglobin (thus the term anemia).
What Causes Microcytic Anemia?
Iron deficiency is actually the main cause of this type of anemia. Namely, iron is necessary for the body to produce hemoglobin. If there is not sufficient hemoglobin, red blood cells remain small and "pale". Microcytic anemia never develops if there are bone marrow hemoglobin reserves. Only if the body completely lacks hemoglobin i.e. iron, this type of anemia occurs.
Chronic Blood Loss and Anemia
In adult individuals mictocytic anemia is a reflection of chronic internal bleeding. In majority of cases such bleeding affects the gastrointestinal tract. Once the doctor assumes that the patient is bleeding, he/she performs additional tests and exams to determine the exact location of bleeding. One more cause of this type of anemia is heavy menstrual bleeding in women.
Anemia of Chronic Disease
Apart from the previously mentioned, microcytic anemia may be associated with certain infections, inflammatory diseases or even cancer. Under such circumstance lifespan of erythrocytes is shortened, there is diminished erythropoietin and insufficient recycling of iron.
In chronic diseases microcytic anemia generally starts as a normocytic anemia (normal size of erythrocytes) and eventually progress to microcytic anemia.
Clinical Characteristics of Microcytic Anemia
In some individuals microcytic anemia may be first diagnosed during routine laboratory tests. Such people generally do not feel any symptom or sign of anemia. Still, in those in whom the amount of hemoglobin is quite low there are specific symptoms and signs of anemia that generally affect each and every person suffering from reduced number of red blood cells. Namely, their skin is pale, there may be shortness of breath, dizziness and fatigue. It is also normal for them to complain about symptoms and signs of the underlying condition, the one that has led to microcytic anemia.
Prevention and Solution for Microcytic Anemia
It is possible to prevent this anemia if one eats proper food and if his/her digestive tract remains healthy. Once the diagnosis of mictocytic anemia is confirmed, it is essential to identify the actual location of bleeding responsible for chronic blood loss. Patients may be administered medications which induce synthesis of red blood cells. Iron supplements are highly effective and are generally the first treatment option.