Treatment for anemia depends on the cause and type of anemia the patient has. Treatment options may include dietary changes or supplements, medications, blood transfusions, or surgery to treat blood loss.
The goal of anemia treatment is to increase the amount of oxygen that your blood can carry. This is done by increasing the hemoglobin level to a value that’s within a normal range. Hemoglobin is a protein found in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body.
Iron deficiency anemia
Treatment for this kind of anemia involves taking iron supplements and making changes to your diet. Diets that include the following foods can help treat iron deficiency anemia:
- Dark green, leafy vegetables
- Dried fruits
- Iron-fortified cereals
Your doctor might recommend taking your iron supplements with a glass of orange juice or another source of vitamin C to help your body absorb the iron more effectively.
Vitamin B12 and folate deficiency anemia
Treatment for this type of anemia involves taking dietary supplements and increasing the consumption of folate and vitamin B12 in your diet.
If your digestive system has trouble absorbing vitamin B12 from the food you eat, you might need vitamin B12 shots. At first, you might have the shots every day. Eventually, you’ll need shots just once a month, possibly for life, depending on your situation.
Anemia of chronic disease
If the cause of the anemia is due to a chronic disease, such as cancer, then treating the underlying disease will usually improve the anemia as well. Under some circumstances, such as chronic kidney disease, your doctor may prescribe medication such as erythropoietin to stimulate your bone marrow to produce more red blood cells.
Treatment for this anemia may include blood transfusions to boost levels of red blood cells. You may need a bone marrow transplant if your bone marrow is infected or can’t make healthy blood cells.
Treatment of hemolytic anemia involves avoiding suspect medications, treating related infections and taking drugs that suppress your immune system, which could be attacking your red blood cells.
People who have mild hemolytic anemia may not need treatment, as long as the condition doesn’t worsen. People who have severe hemolytic anemia usually need ongoing treatment. Severe hemolytic anemia can be fatal if it’s not treated properly.
Depending on the severity of the hemolytic anemia you have, treatments may include lifestyle changes, medicines, blood transfusions, plasmapheresis, and surgery.
Sickle cell anemia
Treatment of sickle cell anemia is usually aimed at relieving symptoms and preventing complications. Treatments might include folic acid supplements, antibiotics, and blood transfusions. For some children and teenagers, a stem cell transplant might cure the disease.