5 Types Of Anemia & Their Differences

    Anemia is a condition where the body lacks enough red blood cells (or hemoglobin, the red pigment in the red blood cells)  which carries oxygen in the blood. There are 5 types of anemia. They have different causes, and also many risk factors.

    There are three blood types in the body; white blood cells, platelets, and red blood cells. While the white blood cells fight infection, platelets help with blood clotting and red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs in the blood. This reduction in the number of red blood cells can be as a result of decreased production of red blood cells, blood loss, increased destruction of blood cells, or a combination of these factors.

    Anemia can also result due to abnormal red blood cells or hemoglobin which can in turn affect the stability of the cells, making them more susceptible to destruction. It is worthy to note that while anemia can develop over time, it can also be genetic.

    5 Types Of Anemia

    Aplastic Anemia

    Aplastic Anemia is a condition that occurs when your body stops producing enough new blood cells. This one of 5 types of anemia is rare but it can develop at any time. It either develops gradually or it comes about suddenly. When you suffer from aplastic anemia, you generally always feel tired and are also prone to infections and continuous bleeding.

    Causes Of Aplastic Anemia

    Aplastic Anemia results from damaged  stem cells in the bone marrow. Stem cells are responsible for producing blood cells, and when they are damaged, the bone marrow becomes void of blood cells or contains less blood cells. This makes it possible for anything to attack the stem cells which will eventually lead to aplastic anemia.

    Symptoms Of Aplastic Anemia 

    • tiredness
    • irregular heart rate
    • prolonged infections 
    • bruising
    • bleeding gums
    • rashes in the skin 
    • headache and fever

    Risk Factors Of Aplastic Anemia

    Although aplastic anemia is rare as previously mentioned, some factors can increase the risk of the condition. These include:

    • engaging in high dose chemotherapy treatment for cancer
    • exposure to toxic chemicals
    • consumption of drugs like chloramphenicol (for bacteria infections) and some gold compounds used in treating arthritis
    • having specific blood diseases and autoimmune diseases
    • pregnancy (in some instances)

    Iron Deficiency Anemia

    Iron deficiency anemia is one of the 5 types of anemia that is very common. The condition involves a  lack of iron in the body. In this case, the blood in a patient has inadequate or unhealthy red blood cells, which makes it impossible for the red blood cells to carry oxygen. This will result in them having a shortage of breath accompanied by constant fatigue.

    Causes Of Iron Deficiency Anemia

    The most common cause of iron deficiency anemia is when you don’t consume enough iron. Iron deficiency can be due to blood loss or not absorbing enough iron or even pregnancy.

    Symptoms Of Iron Deficiency Anemia

    • high levels of fatigue
    • pale skin
    • hands and feet will constantly feel cold
    • constantly feeling dizzy 
    • headaches
    • a sore tongue
    • craving substances that aren’t exactly food e.g clay and ice
    • lack of appetite 

    Risk Factors Of Iron Deficiency Anemia

    Some factors that can increase the risk of iron deficiency anemia in some people. These include:

    • blood loss in women – women are at more risk of this type of anemia because they regularly lose blood during menstruation
    • premature infants – Such infants don’t get adequate iron from breast milk or formulas
    • poor diet –  iron is very important for healthy growth, particularly that of a child. Infants between 6 to 36 months require even higher iron intake. Humans are prone to iron deficiency anemia when they don’t consume a healthy diet
    • vegetarians –  if people don’t consume foods rich in iron (present in red meat for example), they can become anemic
    • frequent blood donors – blood donation can lead to decreased iron levels

    Sickle Cell Anemia

    Sickle cell anemia is another one of the 5 types of anemia which can be inherited. It is characterized by a lack of healthy red blood cells in the body, which makes it difficult to carry oxygen throughout the body. Unlike iron deficiency anemia, the lack of healthy red blood cells is due to the sickle-shaped nature of red blood cells found in people having sickle cell anemia. This sickle shape tendency makes it difficult for red blood cells to move easily through blood vessels.

    Causes Of Sickle Cell Anemia

    Sickle cell anemia can be due to a mutation in the gene that instructs the body to produce enough red blood cells. This is usually inherited so it must be passed down from both mother and father to the child. In a situation where only one parent has the gene, the child will end up with a trait of sickle cell anemia; in other words, the child becomes a carrier.

    Risk Factors Of Sickle Cell Anemia

    The only people at risk of sickle cell anemia are children whose parents have sickle cell anemia

    Symptoms Of Sickle Cell Anemia

    The symptoms of sickle cell anemia varies from individual to individual and is noticed around five months of age. These include:

    • periodic episodes of pain
    • swollen hands and feet
    • constantly getting infected 
    • late puberty
    • vision issues


    Thalassemia is one of the 5 types of anemia which is genetic. It is caused by an inherited blood disorder.  In this case, your body has less hemoglobin than normal making it hard for blood to carry oxygen.

    Causes Of Thalassemia

    Thalassemia is caused when there is a mutation in the DNA of cells, which makes hemoglobin. Hemoglobin molecules have both alpha and beta chains, which can be affected by the mutation. When the alpha molecule is affected, the extent depends on the number of gene mutations you inherited from your parents. In the case of beta molecules, the extent depends on the part of the hemoglobin molecule affected.

    Symptoms Of Thalassemia

    • fatigue
    • colored skin (pale or yellowish)
    • deformed facial bones
    • slow growth
    • swelling of the abdomen

    Risk Factors Of Thalassemia

    • family history of thalassemia 
    • belonging to a specific race can predispose you (such as being of African American descent)

    Vitamin Deficiency Anemia

    Vitamin deficiency anemia occurs when there is a deficiency of vitamin B-12 and vitamin C which will, in turn, cause a lack of healthy red blood cells.

    Causes Of Vitamin Deficiency Anemia

    Vitamin deficiency anemia is usually caused by your body’s shortage of vitamins especially vitamin B-12 and vitamin C.

    Symptoms Of Vitamin Deficiency Anemia

    • tiredness
    • shortage of breath
    • numbness of the hands and feet
    • weakness of the muscle
    • forgetfulness
    • colored skin (pale or yellow)
    • weight loss

    Risk Factors Of Vitamin Deficiency Anemia

    The following factors can predispose to vitamin deficiency anemia

    • having less sources of natural vitamins 
    • pregnancy (not taking the necessary supplements like folic acid during pregnancy can predispose to vitamin deficiency anemia)
    • intestinal or other medical problems that can interfere with absorption of vitamins
    • alcoholism
    • consumption of harmful drugs

    Although most of the 5 types of anemia have similar overlapping symptoms, always make sure you are regular for your check-ups to see if you are suffering from anemia. The good news is that most types of anemia can be treated, with the exception of  sickle cell anemia, and learning about what your body has and needs at an early stage can only be beneficial. 


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