Last updated: January 14, 2012

Most common type of anemia

Most common type of anemia: Iron deficiency anemia

Most common type of anemia

Image courtesy of: National Kidney & Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC)

Iron deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia. The most common cause of iron deficiency anemia in the United States is blood loss. Therefore, we can say that anemia of blood loss is the most common type of anemia in this country.

So, how does Iron deficiency anemia become the most common type of anemia? The diseases and conditions that can cause blood loss are very common. These diseases affect people of all ages. Some people have visible blood loss while others have invisible blood loss. All these conditions can result in loss of blood and loss of iron that is present in the blood. When the lost iron is not replaced quickly enough, patients develop iron deficiency anemia. Normally, the amount of iron in the food is not enough to replenish the iron lost in blood. That is why iron deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia.

Most common type of anemia: A 44 year old female with heavy menstrual bleeding

Miss. T is a 44 year old female nurse working at a local nursing home. She has been relatively healthy all her life. She had raised three kids as a single mom and did not have any health problems. She has a busy schedule but does have time to hit the Gym few times a week.

She had been feeling somewhat weak for the last weeks. Normally, she is able to run on the treadmill for about 30 minutes but recently she has been feeling wiped out just after 10 minutes.She had not gained much weight despite the decreased exercise tolerates. She did not know what was going on with her but she just thought she needed more encouragement.

One day, she was specially motivated to finish her 30min runs and started on the treadmill with a good spirit. She ran very fast and kept pushing herself. After about 5 minutes, she began to sweat profusely and then became very lightheaded. As she attempted to go on, she was completely wiped out and fell down to the ground. She fainted for about 2 minutes and woke up being surrounded by strangers trying to help her. She was then rushed to the local hospital.

In the ER, they did some blood work. The doctors were surprised with the blood results. She had a very severe anemia. Her hemoglobin level was only 5 grams per deciliter. That is critically low. Most people are not even able to stand up and walk at that level of anemia. The doctors suspected iron deficiency anemia in this patient as it is the most common type of anemia in this age group. Based on the fact that she was walking around with such a low level of blood, her anemia must have developed over weeks if not months. The most common type of anemia in such cases is caused by slow but frequent loss of blood. The patient had been having  heavy periods for the last few months. In fact her periods were averaging a total of 7 or 8 days instead of the normal 3-4 days she used to have. She was also bleeding a lot more on those days and was having to change many more pads than usual. She did not pay much attention to her symptoms as she did not have much pain with it.

As the on-call doctor, I admitted the patient to the medical floor and started treatment with blood transfusion. I explained to her that she probably had the most common type of anemia or iron deficiency anemia. I told her that it was most likely related to her heavy menstrual blood loss. After the blood transfusion, her hemoglobin came up and remained stable. She was discharged home and had a follow up appointment with her Gynecologist to do something about her heavy menstrual periods.

This is how a patient with the most common type of anemia related to blood loss from heavy menstrual period presents. I hope the story of Miss T helped you understand the usual presentation of the most common type of anemia.  Although Iron deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia, its presentation can be significantly different in different patients. Please check back soon as I will be uploading more stories about different aspects of patients with Iron deficiency anemia.