Anemia is when your blood does not have enough red blood cells (low hemoglobin). Anemia affects more than 2 billion people worldwide and can be treated through over-the-counter medications, intravenous (IV) treatments, or a red blood cell transfusion. Depending on the type of anemia and necessary treatment, treating anemia can cost between $18 and $500 per month.
To develop the best treatment plan, your provider must determine if the anemia is caused by a poor diet or more serious underlying health problems. If it's a health problem causing low red blood cell count, you will be treated for the causes and the anemia.
Cost of Treating Iron Deficiency Anemia
Iron deficiency anemia is one of the easier anemias to treat because it can be addressed by increasing iron-rich food intake and foods that help absorb iron, such as vitamin C-rich- fruits and vegetables. Additionally, iron deficiency can be treated with over-the-counter iron supplements that are taken by mouth. Incorporating iron-rich foods and taking OTC supplements are the most cost-effective way to treat anemia, as most supplements (60-day supply) can range from $25- $65 per bottle.
However, sometimes a more invasive treatment is necessary to increase red blood cell count and boost the amount of iron. Iron supplements can be administered intravenously. Depending on the type of infusion your doctor recommends, without insurance, the cost per infusion ranges from $400 to $3,000.
Cost of Treating Sickle Cell Anemia
For sickle cell anemia, your provider might recommend undergoing a bone marrow transplant. A bone marrow transplant is a treatment that replaces unhealthy bone marrow with healthy and matching marrow. A bone marrow transplant is one of the most invasive procedures requiring a stem cell match and inpatient care. The cost can vary based on region and facility type; however, in the United States, the cost of a transplant procedure ranges from $350,000 to $800,000.
The table below compares the cost of different treatment options for sickle cell and iron deficiency anemia.
Cost of Anemia Treatments
|Type of Anemia||Nutritional Treatment||OTC Treatment||Hospital or Medical Treatment|
|Sickle Cell||N/A||N/A||$350,000 - $800,000 (Bone Marrow Transplant)|
|Iron Deficiency||Varies: cost of leafy greens, iron-rich meats, etc.||$25-$65 (60-day supply)||$400 - $3,000 per iron infusion treatment|
Source: Medicare Benefits
If you are experiencing symptoms of anemia or if anemia runs in your family, you should consider getting evaluated by your primary healthcare provider. Your provider will perform a series of blood tests to see if you have anemia. The standard blood test to detect anemia is through a complete blood count or CBC, which will tell you the number of red blood cells in your body, size, and shape. Additionally, the CBC will look at your vitamin B12, B9, and iron levels, which, if low, could indicate of anemia.
If your test results show you are anemic, your provider can order additional tests to determine the type of anemia. These tests could include a blood and urine test, colonoscopy or fecal blood test, or bone marrow biopsy. Once the type of anemia is determined, your provider can establish the right course of treatment.
Cost of Anemia Diagnosis
If you have insurance coverage, traditional CBC tests are typically covered under your plan. However, without insurance, the cost of a CBC test can range from $140 - $622, depending on the facility and location. A vitamin panel, which includes B12, B9, and iron testing, can range between $108- $350, and a urine test costs $92 on average.
More invasive diagnostic measures such as colonoscopy and bone marrow biopsies are much more expensive than traditional blood tests. In 2022, the average out-of-pocket cost for a colonoscopy ranges between $1,250 and $4,800. Furthermore, a bone marrow biopsy ranges from $1,000 to $5,000.
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Symptoms of Anemia
There are several signs and symptoms of all types of anemia. The most common symptom is feeling cold or being cold to the touch due to the lack of oxygen circulating in the body. People who are anemic may also be constantly fatigued. Other symptoms include:
- Dizziness or weakness
- Pale and dry skin
- Easily bruising skin
- Elevated heart rate
More severe cases of anemia such as sickle cell anemia might cause hair loss, ringing in the ears, heart or lung problems, and brittle nails.
What is Anemia?
Anemia is a blood condition that can occur when you do not have enough red blood cells in your body. Red blood cells are crucial to bodily function as they work together with iron and hemoglobin proteins to transport oxygen throughout the body and your organs. When you are anemic, your organs are not receiving enough oxygen to do their job.
There are several main types of anemia. The most common types of anemia are iron deficiency anemia and sickle cell anemia.
Iron Deficiency Anemia
Iron deficiency anemia is caused by a lack of iron in your body. Your blood cells need a certain amount of iron to make hemoglobin to transport oxygen around your body successfully. Iron deficiency anemia can be caused by:
- Excessive bleeding (losing a large amount of blood quickly or consistent bleeding over a long time)
- Lack of iron in your diet
- Needing more iron than you previously did (post-partum and post-accident or illness)
Sickle Cell Anemia
Sickle cell anemia is a genetic form of anemia that is caused by misformed red blood cells. Normal red blood cells are shaped like a saucer or circle; however, if someone has sickle cell anemia, the cells become shaped like a sickle. This can cause blood clots, vessel damage, and mismanagement of hemoglobin.
Frequently Ask Questions About Anemia Treatment and Prevention
Below are a few of the commonly asked questions about anemia, how to manage it, prevent it, and treatment options.
What are the types of anemia?
Below is a chart that illustrates the types of anemia and their respective causes.
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Causes of Anemia by Type
|Type of Anemia||Cause(s)|
|Sickle Cell Anemia|
|Iron Deficiency Anemia|
|Vegetarian or Vegan Anemia|
*Can be reversed with food planning and eating vegetables high in iron.
Source: The Cleveland Clinic
Who is most likely to develop anemia?
Anyone can develop anemia during their lifetime however, some groups are at a higher risk for developing anemia:
- Women: blood loss during menstrual cycles and childbirth can lead to anemia, especially if you are prone to heavy periods.
- Infants: infants might experience a decrease in iron when they start to decrease breastfeeding and increase their consumption of solid foods.
- People over the age of 65: Individuals over the age of 65 are more likely to have iron-poor diets and chronic conditions that can impact iron levels
- People on blood thinners
Is anemia deadly?
Most types of anemia can be treated and are manageable with very few complications. However, severe inherited anemias such as sickle cell can be fatal if not diagnosed early and managed correctly.
Can I prevent anemia?
Some types of anemia are inherited and are therefore impossible to prevent. Although iron deficiency, vitamin B12, and vitamin B9 anemia can be prevented through healthy eating and consuming iron-rich vegetables.
How do I manage anemia?
- Following a healthy and nutrition-dense diet
- Drinking enough water and staying hydrated
- Documenting and talking to your doctor about your symptoms or any changes
- Regular exercise; however, if you are feeling weak or tired, check with your provider on what exercises might be best.
Anemia is a common condition affecting millions of Americans each year. It's crucial to remember that while most cases of anemia are not severe or life-threatening, you should still follow up with your primary care physician if you are experiencing symptoms or have a family history of anemia.
Blood work can help get to the bottom of the cause of your symptoms, and you shouldn’t be worried about the cost of your testing. With Mira, you not only get affordable care but also peace of mind. For just $45 per month, you get access to low-cost and affordable lab testing, urgent care, and discounted prescriptions. Sign up today!
Originally from Houston, Texas, Alexandra is currently getting her Master's in Public Health with a health policy certificate at Columbia University. One of her life goals is to own her own art gallery!