Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Anemia treatment depends on the cause.

  • Iron deficiency anemia. This form of anemia is treated with changes in your diet and iron supplements. If the underlying cause of iron deficiency is loss of blood — other than from menstruation — the source of the bleeding must be located and stopped. This may involve surgery.
  • Vitamin deficiency anemias. Folic acid and vitamin C deficiency anemias are treated with dietary supplements and increasing these nutrients in your diet. If your digestive system has trouble absorbing vitamin B-12 from the food you eat, you may receive vitamin B-12 injections.
  • Anemia of chronic disease. There's no specific treatment for this type of anemia. Doctors focus on treating the underlying disease. If symptoms become severe, a blood transfusion or injections of synthetic erythropoietin, a hormone normally produced by your kidneys, may help stimulate red blood cell production and ease fatigue.
  • Aplastic anemia. Treatment for this anemia may include blood transfusions to boost levels of red blood cells. You may need a bone marrow transplant if your bone marrow is diseased and can't make healthy blood cells.
  • Anemias associated with bone marrow disease. Treatment of these various diseases can range from simple medication to chemotherapy to bone marrow transplantation.
  • Hemolytic anemias. Managing hemolytic anemias includes avoiding suspect medications, treating related infections and taking drugs that suppress your immune system, which may be attacking your red blood cells. Short courses of treatment with steroids or immune suppressant medications can help suppress your immune system's attack on your red blood cells. Depending on the severity of your anemia, a blood transfusion or plasmapheresis may be necessary. Plasmapheresis is a type of blood-filtering procedure. In certain cases, removal of the spleen can be helpful.
  • Sickle cell anemia. Treatment for this anemia may include the administration of oxygen, pain-relieving drugs, and oral and intravenous fluids to reduce pain and prevent complications. Doctors may also recommend blood transfusions, folic acid supplements and antibiotics. A bone marrow transplant may be an effective treatment in some circumstances. A cancer drug called hydroxyurea (Droxia, Hydrea) also is used to treat sickle cell anemia.
  • Thalassemia. This anemia may be treated with blood transfusions, folic acid supplements, removal of the spleen (splenectomy), a bone marrow transplant or a cancer drug.
Mar. 08, 2013