Treatment for anemia is determined by the underlying cause of the condition. Iron deficiency anemia, the most common cause of anemia, is healed with iron supplements. Supplements are also prescribed for treating vitamin deficiency anemias. Certain drugs are available for treating other complicated forms of anemia such as sickle cell anemia, hemolytic anemia, anemia of chronic diseases and anemia linked to bone marrow disorders.
Medications For Anemia
Iron supplements are frequently recommended by doctors for treating iron deficiency anemia. Supplements containing ferrous form of iron are easily absorbed in the digestive tract. However, supplements just as any other medication should be used with caution. They should be taken under medical supervision.High doses of iron or prolonged intake of iron supplements causes iron overload which induces an array of health problems such as diarrhea, vomiting, headache, heart problems, irritation and joint problems. Iron supplements should not be taken with calcium rich foods or calcium supplements. Calcium inhibits iron absorption. Constipation, diarrhea, nausea and abdominal pain are common side effects of iron supplements.
Vitamin B12 and Folate Supplements
Inability to absorb vitamin B12 is a common cause of vitamin B12 deficiency anemia. Vitamin B12 injections are administered every one to three months to sustain the vitamin B12 level in the body and facilitate development of the red blood cells. Vitamin B12 supplements are sometimes recommended, especially to vegetarians and vegans who do not get vitamin B12 from their diet. Folate supplements are taken when folate deficiency is believed to be responsible for anemia.
Erythropoietin Stimulating Agents
Erythropoietin is a hormone that induces production of red blood cells in the bone marrow. Anemia developing due to chronic kidney diseases is widely treated with erythropoietin stimulating agents. Recombinant human erythropoietin injections are also administered to boost the red blood cell count after chemotherapy treatment.However, deficiency of iron, vitamin B12 and folate, high levels of aluminum, protein malnutrition, infection, gastrointestinal bleeding or reduced sensitivity to erythropoietin reduces the effectiveness of erythropoietin stimulating agents in treating anemia. High blood pressure is a common side effect of erythropoietin stimulating agents.
Sickle cell anemia could be treated with hydroxyurea. This drug is known as antineoplastic agent. It treats sickle cell disease in children by changing the shape of the hemoglobin. The new red blood cells are least likely to sickle. The duration of the treatment depends on the response of the body to the drug. Hydroxyurea recommended for healing sickle cell anemia is usually taken once a day.
At the initial stage of the treatment, the doctor usually prescribes low doses of the drug. The dose may be gradually increased over time. Although hydroxyurea reduces the symptoms of anemia, the condition cannot be cured with the medication. It should be taken regularly for a prolonged period, even after the symptoms of anemia subside.Nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea and drowsiness are some of the common side effects of hydroxyurea. Serious side effects such as loss of sensation in one area of the body, rash, discoloration in nails or skin, swelling of hands, lower legs, ankles and feet and sores on skin or in mouth need prompt medical intervention.