A wide variety of treatment modalities are currently being used to address anemia. These treatments can range from something as simple as dietary modifications all the way to blood transfusions, bone marrow transplants, stem cell transplants and even surgery. The selected treatment will be chosen dependent upon the cause or nature of the individual’s anemic condition. The goal of treating anemia is to restore red blood cells — and the hemoglobin they carry — to raise saturated oxygen levels in the blood. Hemoglobin is the iron-rich protein in red blood cells that carries molecular oxygen to the other cells in the body. Secondarily, if the anemia is due to a specific condition or disease, obviously the goal is to treat that condition or disease as well.
Diet and supplements. Many forms of anemia are treated through simple dietary modifications. Increasing your intake of foods that are high in iron, vitamin B12 and folate (folic acid) can dramatically help raise your red blood cell and hemoglobin levels. Increasing your intake of vitamin C can help the body absorb more iron as well. Foods such as red meats (especially organ meats), seafood, green leafy vegetables, nuts and whole grains all contain high levels of dietary iron. If dietary modifications are insufficient, supplements may be ordered by your doctor. These supplements will likely include iron, vitamin B12, folic acid and vitamin C. According to the Mayo Clinic, “If your digestive system has trouble absorbing vitamin B12 from the food you eat, you may receive vitamin B12 injections.”
Medication. Various medications may be used to treat anemia. Hormone treatment for heavy menstrual bleeding in women and teenagers is common. Antibiotics are also common if a concurrent infection is causing the low red blood cell count. Administration of erythropoietin — a synthetic hormone that stimulates the bone marrow to produce more red blood cells — may be necessary. If the red blood cells are being destroyed due to immune response activity, immune-suppressive drugs may be required.
Transplants. On the more extreme end of the anemia treatment spectrum are blood transfusions, bone marrow transplants and stem cell transplants. These are normally used when the red blood cell count is dangerously low and/or chronically low. Because of considerably high potential risks, your doctor will typically use these as a last resort. If the anemia is due to chronic blood loss, such as in a bleeding ulcer, surgery may be the solution. To “cure” the anemia in these situations, the source of bleeding has to be repaired to halt the continuing loss of blood.