The three most common causes of Anemia


The three most common causes of anemia are outlined here. Anemia is frequently the result of multiple conditions occurring at the same time in elderly adults. The following are examples of these conditions:

  • Decreased red blood cell production caused by:
    • Problems with bone marrow function
    • Chronic diseases or inflammation, such as cancer or infections
    • Hormone problems
    • Kidney disease
    • Malnutrition and dietary deficiencies in iron, vitamin B12, or folic acid (folate)
    • Hereditary disorders
    • Medications
    • Alcohol dependency
  • Loss of blood from:
    • stomach irritation from medications, alcohol, or an ulcer
    • polyps or tumors in the bowels
    • kidney stones or tumors
    • cancers
    • surgery 
  • Increased destruction of red blood cells caused by:
    • Medications
    • A hereditary disorder
    • A disease of your immune system
    • Heart valve problems (which damage your red blood cells)
    • A tumor
    • Infections

Here are the most common causes of anemia in older adults. 

Iron-deficiency Anemia

Chronic blood loss, generally from the gastrointestinal tract, is a prevalent cause of iron deficiency anemia. Internal bleeding that is "silent" might be caused by bleeding ulcers or polyps, malignancy, or chronic irritation of the gastrointestinal tract lining. This blood loss is often undetectable to the naked eye, so your healthcare provider may perform a simple test called a fecal occult blood test to detect it.

Anemia of Chronic Disease

Chronic illness anemia can be caused by persistent infections, tissue damage, various forms of arthritis, benign or malignant tumors, or a range of other chronic medical diseases. These disorders induce internal inflammation and prevent your bone marrow from functioning properly.

Anemia of B12 and Folate Deficiencies

Vitamin B12 and folate (folic acid) are two vitamins important for red blood cell production. Vitamin B12 deficiency is more common with advancing age, particularly in women over the age of 60 and adults with autoimmune thyroid disease. Signs and symptoms include:

  • General body weakness
  • Pale skin
  • Changes in the nervous system (some signs of this include a clumsy walk, or numbness and tingling in the arms and legs)
  • Behavioral changes or confusion

Folate deficiency can result from poor nutrition, certain medications, or diseases affecting absorption from the gut.  

Hemolytic Anemia

Hemolytic anemia is anemia caused by the breakdown of red blood cells. Immune system issues are frequently to fault. Cancers that kill red blood cells include non-lymphoma Hodgkin's and chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Medication, infections, or immune system diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus can all induce hemolytic anemia.

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