Anemia

You get tired during your routine activities and feel drained of energy by end of the day. You have undergone some medical tests that said you were anemic. Several supplements since then have not been able to provide relief or improve the blood picture. Your anemia needs further characterization and unless studied in detail, may not be possible to treat well. All anemias are not alike though may cause similar symptoms.

What is normocytic anemia?

Normocytic anemia is an abnormality of blood wherein the numbers of red cells is reduced and their shape and structure is normal. There is thus a fall in the red cell mass to levels below those expected for normal people of the same age and gender. This is unlike the small red cells seen in anemia due to iron deficiency and large red blood cells seen in anemia due to deficiency of vitamin B12. Normocytic anemia may be an initial manifestation of any type of anemia.

Normocytic anemia is a common type of anemia seen in elderly.

What causes normocytic anemia?

Normocytic anemia may be present since birth, i.e. it can be congenital. When acquired later in life, it may be caused by a disease or an infection. It is usually seen in course of long term diseases like cancers, kidney diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, a disease in which there is inflammation of small joints in the body, etc. Normocytic anemia is caused when there is an inadequate production of red cells, excess of fluid in blood leading to dilution, or an increased destruction of red cells. Inadequate destruction can be due to some bone marrow disorders. Increased dilution of blood can be seen in pregnancy or when excess of fluids are infused when trying to treat other conditions.

Normocytic anemia may also develop as an adverse effect to consumption of some medicines.

How is normocytic anemia treated?

Normocytic anemia is best treated by correcting the underlying cause. It resolves as other medical conditions are treated. If normocytic anemia is being caused by some other drugs that you are taking, you will need to stop taking the drug and use other alternative drugs as advised by your doctor. If caused by deficiency of iron, you will need iron supplements in form of pills or syrups. You may be advised to also take a vitamin supplement. When normocytic anemia is severe and causing distressing symptoms, you may need some injections of erythropoietin.This is a hormone produced by the body that stimulates the bone marrow to produce more and more red cells. It is available as a recombinant form for injections. It is safe to use this injection though it may cause pain at injection site and increase in blood pressure in some patients.

Anemia is treatable provided it is understood what is the type and cause for anemia. Reconfirm yours if you have one and see it disappear after a proper treatment.

What are the signs of normocytic anemia?

Normocytic anemia is a silent entity. It has a slow onset and may only cause fatigue or tiredness that may be low grade and difficult to explain. One may turn pale and loose lusture of skin. The nails loose the pink color and turn white. The inner surfaces of lower eyelids also turn pale. If normocytic anemia develops more swiftly, it can cause dizziness, fainting, shortness of breath, etc. The symptoms are similar to those seen in other anemias and differentiation of normocytic anemias from other types of anemias is difficult on basis of symptoms alone.

How does my doctor find out that I have normocytic anemia?

Your doctor will obtain a detailed history from you for your complaints and examine your eyes, nails, skin, and other parts of your body. Normocytic anemia is best diagnosed by studying a detailed blood picture. Your doctor may like you to undergo a complete blood count (CBC). For this a sample of blood taken from one of your vessels will be subjected to examination for the numbers and types of cells. This is done by studying the samples under a machine after using special techniques to delineate different cells in the blood. In normocytic anemia, CBC shows a lower count of normal sized red cells.

The red blood cell indices used to characterize normocytic anemia are the mean corpuscular volume (MCV), hemoglobin and hematocrit concentrations. Hemoglobin is an oxygen carrying protein in the red cells. Hematocrit signifies the percent of the total blood volume constituted by cells. MCV is a measure of the size of the red cells. A typical blood profile of normocytic anemia is characterized by a normal mean corpuscular volume (MCV) and decreased hemoglobin and hematocrit concentrations.

You may then need to undergo detailed investigations to find out the underlying cause for normocytic anemia. Other family members may need to undergo investigations if they too have normocytic anemia.