Microcytic anemia gets its name from the presence of smaller and fewer than normal red blood cells. Macrocytic anemia, on the other hand, occurs when red blood cells are larger than normal. In most cases of microcytic anemia, the red blood cells are hypochromic, meaning they have less color than normal red blood cells. This form of anemia is quite common in teenagers and young children. It may be inherited or acquired, and iron deficiency is the most common cause.
Red blood cells deliver oxygen to all the tissues in the body using an oxygen-carrying protein called hemoglobin. Anemia occurs when the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells and therefore hemoglobin, inhibiting optimal oxygen delivery. Many compounds go into making red blood cells, including iron, folic acid, and vitamin B12, and the cells are primarily produced in the bone marrow. There are many forms of microcytic anemia, but all have the distinguishing characteristic of having smaller than normal red blood cells.
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