Anemias - Treatment

Treatment differs for each type of anemia. Iron deficiency, folic acid deficiency, and vitamin B 12 deficiency anemias are all nutritional problems. That is, the patient is not getting enough of certain essential nutrients through his or her diet. Problems of this kind can often be solved with nutritional supplements. The patient may need to take vitamin or mineral supplements that provide the missing nutrient. Patients should also be sure to eat foods that contain the vitamins and minerals needed to prevent anemia, including:

  • Almonds
  • Broccoli
  • Dried beans
  • Dried fruits
  • Enriched breads and cereals
  • Lean red meat
  • Liver
  • Potatoes
  • Rice
  • Shellfish
  • Tomatoes

More serious forms of anemia may require surgery. Bleeding ulcers and certain types of stomach disorders are examples of anemias that may be treated surgically. In some cases, blood transfusions may be required. People who have lost large numbers of red blood cells may require a transfusion in order to avoid serious complications of anemia.

The most extreme form of treatment in such cases is a bone marrow transplant. All blood cells are made in bone marrow. Marrow is a fatty tissue found in the center of bones. People whose bodies make too few red blood cells may need a bone marrow transplant. Marrow from a healthy person is injected into the patient's bones. If successful, the healthy marrow begins producing red blood cells.

There is no cure for sickle cell anemia, autoimmune hemolytic anemia, and some other forms of anemia, therefore, treatment for these forms of anemia has two goals. First, steps should be taken to avoid complications. For example, a person with sickle cell anemia may require immunizations (shots) to protect against influenza, pneumonia, and other infectious diseases. Second, efforts should be made to relieve symptoms as much as possible. People with hemolytic anemia, for example, may be given shots of corticosteroids (pronounced kor-tih-ko-STIHR-oids), which help reduce inflammation and swelling that often accompany this condition.

Alternative Treatment

Practitioners often follow traditional medical treatments in dealing with anemia. That is, they may recommend nutritional supplements to replace lost iron or to improve general health. Certain iron-rich herbs may also be recommended. These herbs include yellow dock root, dandelion, parsley, and nettle.

Herbs may also be suggested to improve digestion. Improved digestion ensures that iron in foods is more likely to be absorbed by the body. Some herbs recommended for this purpose include gentian, anise, caraway, cumin, linden, and licorice.

Traditional Chinese treatments for anemia include:

  • Acupuncture, which is a therapy technique where fine needles puncture the body, to improve the health of the spleen
  • Asian ginseng, to restore energy
  • Dong quai, an herb used to control heavy menstrual bleeding
  • A mixture of dong quai and Chinese foxglove, to clear a pale complexion

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