General Practice 2022

Main types of anemia and how to treat

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Main types of anemia and how to treat
Main types of anemia and how to treat

Anemia is a disease characterized by a decrease in hemoglobin in the bloodstream, which can have several causes, from a genetic change to poor diet. To identify and confirm the diagnosis of anemia, the doctor usually orders a blood test to assess the amount of hemoglobin, being considered anemia when the value is less than 12 g/dL in women or 13 g/dL in men.

Next, further tests, such as hemoglobin electrophoresis, reticulocyte count, or stool examination, may be necessary to identify the correct type of anemia and initiate appropriate treatment. Regardless of the anemia that the person has, it is important that treatment is started, as it is possible to reduce the risk of developing complications that result in irreversible brain damage, such as dementia, stroke and cardiovascular problems, for example.

According to the characteristics of anemia and the results of blood tests, anemia can be classified into some main types, namely:

1. Macrocytic anemias

Macrocytic anemias are those in which the erythrocytes are larger than normal, being normally seen in the MCV exam (Mean Corpuscular Volume) above the reference value, which is between 80 and 100 fl. The main types of macrocytic anemias are:

Megaloblastic anemia

It is a type of anemia characterized by the abnormal size of red blood cells and a decrease in white blood cells and platelets, caused by low intake of vitamin B12, more common in vegetarians. In addition to the classic symptoms, there may be abdominal pain, hair loss, tiredness and mouth sores, for example.

How to treat: Increase your intake of foods with vitamin B12, such as oysters, salmon, and beef liver, or use vitamin B12 supplements purchased at the pharmacy. Understand better how megaloblastic anemia is treated.

Fanconi Anemia

It is a type of genetic anemia characterized by abnormal size of red blood cells and decrease in white blood cells and platelets, caused by vitamin B12 deficiency. Symptoms include stomach pain, hair loss, tiredness and mouth sores, for example.

How to treat: treatment usually starts with the use of corticosteroids, but blood transfusions and even bone marrow transplantation may be necessary in more severe cases. Learn more about treatment types.

Pernicious anemia

Pernicious anemia is a type of megaloblastic anemia that occurs when a person ingests vitamin B12, but the body cannot absorb it, which can result in severe neurological damage if not properly treated.

How to treat: Due to the difficulty in absorbing vitamin B12, treatment should be done with injections of the vitamin directly into the vein throughout the year. Find out how to identify and treat pernicious anemia.

Learn more about pernicious anemia in the following video:

2. Microcytic anemias

Microcytic anemias are those in which red blood cells are smaller than normal, with decreased MCV and hemoglobin concentration within the red blood cells. The main microcytic anemias are:

Iron deficiency anemia

It is one of the most common types of anemia, which is caused by low consumption of foods with iron, such as red meat, eggs or spinach. However, this type of anemia can also occur after heavy bleeding or menstruation, due to the loss of iron from the blood.

How to treat: It is usually treated with a diet rich in foods with iron and iron supplementation. Only in the most severe cases is a blood transfusion necessary. Learn more about treatment for iron deficiency anemia.


Thalassaemia is a type of microcytic anemia caused by genetic alterations that result in defects in the process of hemoglobin synthesis, which can cause fatigue, irritability, delay in growth, lack of appetite and weakening of the immune system, for example.

Thalassaemia can be classified into some types according to the hemoglobin chain that had its development impaired, which can make the symptoms presented by the person less or more severe. Learn how to identify each type of thalassemia.

How to treat: It is important to identify the type of thalassemia so that treatment can be initiated and, thus, the progression of the disease can be avoided. In addition, it is important to have a proper diet to improve the quality of life and ensure a sense of well-being.

3. Normocytic anemias

Normocytic anemias are those in which the size of the red blood cells is normal, with the result of MCV and HCM close to the limit of normal or presenting little variation in relation to normal values. The main types of normocytic anemia are:

Hemolytic anemia

This type of anemia produces antibodies that destroy blood cells. It is more common in women than men and causes symptoms such as pallor, dizziness, purple marks on the skin, dry skin and eyes, and others. See other symptoms of this type of anemia.

How to treat: fortunately, this anemia is curable and this can be achieved with the use of corticosteroids or immunosuppressive drugs. In some cases, surgery may be required to remove part of the spleen.

Sickle Cell Anemia

It is a genetic anemia caused by the destruction of red blood cells which generates symptoms such as jaundice, swelling in the hands and feet and pain throughout the body.

How to treat: treatment is done with drugs to relieve the symptoms of each person, since there is no treatment capable of curing this type of anemia.

Aplastic anemia

It is an autoimmune disease where the bone marrow decreases the production of blood cells, causing symptoms such as purple spots on the skin, frequent bruising and bleeding that takes a long time to stop.

How to treat: its treatment is done with bone marrow transplantation and blood transfusion, when not properly treated, it can lead to death in less than 1 year.

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