Anemia. Red blood cells

"Although most often in our environment, anemia is due to a lack of iron (ferropenia), it is essential to correctly identify its cause in order to treat it properly".


What is anemia?

Anemia is a disease characterized by a decrease in the amount of red blood cells or hemoglobin in the blood.

Hemoglobin is a protein present in red blood cells that transports oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. When there is a deficiency of red blood cells or hemoglobin, the body does not receive enough oxygen, which can lead to a number of symptoms and complications.

Anemia can be the manifestation of a hematologic disease or a secondary manifestation of many other diseases, so it is important to know the type of anemia you have and evaluate the possible causes.

Certain types of anemia can be severe, long-lasting and even life-threatening if left undiagnosed and untreated.

What are the symptoms of anemia?

What are the most common symptoms of anemia?

Fatigue and Weakness

Fatigue and weakness are the most common symptoms of anemia. Since the hemoglobin in red blood cells is responsible for transporting oxygen to all parts of the body, a decrease in their number or function can cause a feeling of tiredness or persistent fatigue. This may be accompanied by weakness, decreased ability to perform physical activities and a feeling of exhaustion.


Pallor, particularly of the gums, nails and lower eyelids, is a frequently observed sign in people with anemia. A decrease in the amount of hemoglobin, the pigment that gives color to the blood, may result in a pale or whitish coloring of areas that are normally red or pink.

Dyspnea and tachycardia

Dyspnea, or shortness of breath, and tachycardia, a rapid heart rate, may be indicative of anemia. In an attempt to compensate for the decrease in oxygen in the blood, the body may increase the breathing and heart rate to ensure adequate oxygenation of the tissues.

Other Symptoms

Other symptoms that may suggest the presence of anemia include dizziness, headache, intolerance to cold, appetite disturbances, and weight loss. In some cases, symptoms specific to the underlying cause of the anemia may be observed.

When anemia develops very abruptly, as in acute hemorrhage, the symptoms depend mainly on the loss of blood volume within the vessels, and varying degrees of vascular collapse, pallor, sweating, tachycardia and arterial hypotension may develop, and the patient's life may become endangered.

Anemia can occur acutely or chronically and the symptoms are different depending precisely on how quickly it appears.

Mild anemia begins to manifest itself as a decrease in resistance to physical exercise, accompanied by tachycardia and shortness of breath.

If the anemia becomes more intense, these symptoms become more pronounced and appear with minimal exertion or even at rest, and are associated with extreme fatigue.

The patient may be pale, with a low coloration of the skin and mucous membranes. Headache may appear and, in patients with cardiovascular disease, angina pectoris may be triggered.

However, in anemia that develops over a very long period of time, the body adapts its systems to the anemia and the patient may have few or no symptoms, especially if he or she does not exercise regularly.

When anemia develops very abruptly, as in acute hemorrhage, the symptoms depend mainly on the loss of blood volume within the vessels, and varying degrees of vascular collapse, pallor, sweating, tachycardia and arterial hypotension may develop, and the patient's life may become endangered.

Do you have any of these symptoms?

You may suffer from anemia

What are the types of anemia?

Iron deficiency anemia

Iron deficiency anemia is the most common form of anemia and is caused by a lack of iron in the body. Iron is essential for the production of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to the tissues. Common causes of iron deficiency anemia include an iron-deficient diet, poor iron absorption, pregnancy, childhood growth spurts, and blood loss due to menstruation or internal bleeding.

Megaloblastic anemia

This type of anemia occurs when there is a deficiency of vitamin B12 or folic acid, resulting in the production of red blood cells that are larger than normal and cannot function properly. It can be caused by poor diet, poor absorption of these vitamins, or certain autoimmune diseases.

Hemolytic anemia

Hemolytic anemia is a group of blood disorders in which red blood cells are destroyed faster than the bone marrow can replace them. The causes may be genetic, as in hereditary spherocytosis and sickle cell disease, or acquired, as in autoimmune hemolytic anemias.

Aplastic anemia

Aplastic anemia is a rare but serious condition in which the bone marrow cannot produce enough red blood cells. This can result from a variety of factors, including certain medications, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and autoimmune diseases. Aplastic anemia can be life-threatening and requires urgent medical attention.

Anemia of chronic disease

This is a type of anemia that occurs in people who have illnesses that last longer than one month, such as HIV infection, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, kidney failure or cancer. These conditions can affect red blood cell production, resulting in anemia.

What are the causes of anemia?

Red blood cells can be diminished for three main reasons: 

  • Because not enough are produced, as happens in spinal cord aplasias, in bone marrow infiltration by tumors, in anemia produced by iron deficiency, in the anemia that accompanies many chronic diseases such as rheumatic diseases and in the disease associated with chronic renal failure.
  • Because there is a disorder in the maturation of these red blood cells in the bone marrow where they are formed. This happens in anemias associated with vitamin B12 or folate deficiency, as well as in other hematological diseases such as refractory anemias.
  • Because they are destroyed or lost at greater speed. It can be caused by the acute loss of blood that occurs in hemorrhages of any kind, by hemolysis or intravascular rupture of red blood cells of mechanical or autoimmune cause and by alterations of the membrane of hematy or hemoglobin, many of them hereditary.

How is anemia diagnosed?

<p>Imagen de tubos de análisis de sangre del Laboratorio de Hematología de la Clínica Universidad de Navarra&nbsp;</p>

The initial diagnosis is apparently simple, since in a routine analysis or for other reasons a decrease in the levels of hemoglobin or the number of red blood cells is detected.

However, the analyses not only allow the diagnosis of anemia, but through the examination of a series of characteristics of these red blood cells, such as their size or the concentration of hemoglobin they contain, many data can be known that allow the diagnostic process of the type of anemia in question to be initiated.

The complete study, once the anemia has been detected, will require extending the analytical study, examining an extension of peripheral blood and, in some cases, performing an aspiration or a biopsy of the bone marrow.

How is anemia treated?

It is essential to know well the type of anemia to establish the most appropriate treatment

Effective management of anemia requires a comprehensive approach that takes into account the underlying cause, the severity of the condition and the patient's overall health status. The primary goal of anemia treatment is to increase the amount of oxygen that the blood can carry to the body. This is accomplished by increasing the number of red blood cells or the amount of hemoglobin in the blood.

Supplements and Medications

For anemias caused by iron, vitamin B12 or folic acid deficiencies, treatment usually involves supplements to replenish deficient levels of these nutrients. Iron supplements are essential for hemoglobin production. In cases of vitamin B12 or folic acid deficiency anemia, oral supplements or injections may be prescribed.

In addition, there are medications that can stimulate the bone marrow to produce more red blood cells. These medications, such as erythropoietin, are often helpful in people with certain forms of anemia, such as anemia associated with chronic kidney failure.

Blood Transfusions

Blood transfusions may be a treatment option for people with certain types of severe anemia. These transfusions involve receiving red blood cells from a donor through a vein. While transfusions may relieve the symptoms of anemia in the short term, they generally do not address the underlying cause of the anemia.

Specific Therapies

For anemias caused by chronic diseases or genetic conditions, treatment is directed at the underlying disease. This may involve specialized drug therapies, surgical procedures or, in extreme cases, bone marrow transplants.

Treatment of anemia should be individualized, and the attention of a healthcare professional should be sought to determine the most effective approach. Proper management of anemia can significantly improve the patient's quality of life and overall well-being. It is important to remember that any treatment should be supervised and monitored by a physician to ensure safety and efficacy.

Where do we treat it?


The Hematology and Hemotherapy Service of the
at the Clínica Universidad de Navarra

The Hematology Service of the Clinic, formed by specialists of recognized national and international prestige, has integrated molecular diagnostic techniques and the use of new personalized treatments in its assistance work, allowing a more precise and fast diagnosis of the hematological diseases.

The joint work of the medical staff and the researcher facilitates the development and application of the new treatments and at the same time the precise evaluation of the result of the treatments.

Imagen de la fachada de consultas de la sede en Pamplona de la Clínica Universidad de Navarra

Why at the Clinica?

  • Experts in the development of Cellular Therapy treatments.
  • International reference center in lymphomas, multiple myeloma and monoclonal gammopathies.
  • Experts in the diagnosis and treatment of hemorrhagic and thrombotic problems.

Our team of professionals

Especialistas en Hematología con experiencia en el tratamiento de la anemia

Frequently asked questions about anemia

The severity of anemia depends on its cause and the extent of the red blood cell or hemoglobin deficiency. In severe and untreated cases, anemia can have serious health consequences. It is important to seek medical attention for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Iron-rich foods such as red meat, liver, spinach, lentils and nuts can help increase iron levels in the body.

It is also recommended to consume foods rich in vitamin C, as this vitamin helps in the absorption of iron.

Yes, anemia can negatively affect pregnancy. During pregnancy, the body needs to produce more red blood cells to meet the extra demands for oxygen. If a pregnant woman has anemia, there may be an increased risk of complications for her and the fetus.

In some cases, anemia can be prevented by maintaining a balanced diet rich in essential nutrients such as iron, vitamin B12 and folic acid.

It is also important to properly treat any underlying disease that may cause anemia.

The time needed to treat anemia depends on the underlying cause, the severity of the condition and the individual response to treatment.

Some forms of anemia may require long-term treatment, while others may resolve quickly with correction of the deficiency.

Complications of anemia can vary depending on the severity and duration of the condition. In the short term, anemia can cause fatigue, weakness and pallor.

In the long term, it can lead to heart problems, such as heart failure or enlargement of the heart. This is because the heart must work harder to pump more blood and supply enough oxygen to the body.

In cases of severe or chronic anemia, the risk of infections may increase, and in pregnant women, there may be complications for both mother and baby.