Anemia is a common blood disorder that occurs when the body has fewer red
blood cells than normal. Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body using
a protein called hemoglobin. If there aren’t enough of these cells or this
protein, anemia results.
Anemia is often a symptom of a disease rather than a disease itself. In some
cases, anemia is temporary and caused by a nutritional deficiency or blood
loss. In others, it’s the result of a chronic or inherited condition, including
genetic disorders, autoimmune problems, cancers and other diseases. While many
types of anemia can be mild and easily corrected, certain types of anemia can
be severe, chronic and/or life-threatening.
Types of anemia include:
Children and young adults with anemia are treated at
Dana-Farber/Boston Children's through our Blood Disorders Center. Our program brings
together world-renown pediatric
hematology specialists and support staff from across Dana-Farber/Boston
Children’s, including pediatric hematologist/oncologists, hematopathologists,
hematology nurse practitioners, social workers and designated hematology
patient coordinators. For
many appointments and certain procedures, your child can also receive care at
one of Boston Children's satellite offices.
Each child may experience anemia symptoms differently. Some of the symptoms
included are specific to certain causes of anemia but most are non-specific.
Anemia can also be a symptom associated with other diseases. The most
frequently noted anemia symptoms include:
It is important to understand
that some symptoms of anemia may resemble those of other more common medical
problems or other blood disorders. Because some of these symptoms can also
point to other conditions, and because anemia itself can be a symptom of
another medical problem, it’s important to have your child evaluated by a
qualified medical professional for an accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment.
Anemia's causes are largely
dependent on the type of anemia your child suffers from. The most common causes
The first step in treating your child is forming an accurate and complete diagnosis.
Anemia is usually discovered during a medical exam through simple blood tests
that measure the concentration of hemoglobin and the number of red blood cells.
Diagnostic procedures to determine the underlying cause of the anemia may
may be other diagnostic tests that your doctor will discuss with you depending
on your child's individual situation. After we complete all necessary tests,
our experts meet to review and discuss what they have learned about your
child's condition. Then we will meet with you and your family to discuss the
results and outline the best possible treatment options.
Depending on the specific cause of your child’s anemia, your child’s
physician may recommend a variety of different treatments. Treatments for
various forms of anemia may include:
course, your child's team of doctors will help determine the best approach for
your child's unique situation, based on a number of factors including:
scientists are conducting innovative research on anemias and red blood cell disorders.
We have a long track record of innovation, and Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s
Cancer and Blood Disorders Center is considered a world leader in
laboratory and clinical research on blood disorders.
For many children with rare or hard-to-treat conditions, clinical trials
provide new options.Participation
in any clinical trial is completely voluntary. We will take care to fully
explain all elements of the treatment plan prior to the start of the trial, and
you may remove your child from the medical study at any time.
The long-term outlook for children with anemia depends on the specific cause
of the anemia. Some forms of anemia, such as a nutritional deficiency, can be
treated quickly and don’t require significant long-term follow-up care.
In other cases, in which the anemia is caused by a genetic condition or
other serious underlying disorder, your child may need regular follow-up by our
hematologists. Your child’s physician can discuss your child’s specific care
We have a number of resources at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s to help you
and your family through this time. From the first visit through follow-up care,
our nurses will be on hand to walk you through your child’s treatment and help
answer any questions you may have.
If you’d like to talk with someone whose child has been treated for anemia,
we can put you in touch with other families who have been through the same
experience that you and your child are facing.