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Microcytic anaemia is any of several types of anemia characterized by small red blood cells (called microcytes). The normal mean corpuscular volume (abbreviated to MCV on full blood count results) is 80-100 fL, with smaller cells (<80 fL) described as microcytic and larger cells (>100 fL) as macrocytic (the latter occur in macrocytic anemia).The MCV is the average red blood cell size.
In microcytic anemia, the red blood cells (erythrocytes) are usually also hypochromic, meaning that the red blood cells appear paler than usual. This is reflected by a lower-than-normal mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration (MCHC), a measure representing the amount of hemoglobin per unit volume of fluid inside the cell; normally about 320-360 g/L or 32-36 g/dL. Typically, therefore, anemia of this category is described as "microcytic, hypochromic anaemia".
Typical causes of microcytic anemia include:
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Sideroblastic anemia, In congenital sideroblastic anemia the MCV (mean corpuscular volume) is either low or normal. In contrast, the MCV is usually high in the much more common acquired sideroblastic anemia.
- Anemia of chronic disease, although this more typically causes normochromic, normocytic anemia. Microcytic anemia has been discussed by Weng et al.
- Lead poisoning
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) deficiency
There are five main causes of microcytic anemia forming the acronym TAILS. Thalessemia, Anemia of chronic disease, Iron deficiency, Lead poisoning and Congenital sideroblastic anemia. Only the first three are common in most parts of the world. In theory, these three can be differentiated by their red blood cell (RBC) morphologies. Anemia of chronic disease shows unremarkable RBCs, iron deficiency shows anisocytosis, anisochromia and elliptocytosis, and thalessemias demonstrate target cells and coarse basophilic stippling. In practice though elliptocytes and anisocytosis are often seen in thalessemia and target cells occasionally in iron deficiency. All three may show unremarkable RBC morphology. Coarse basophlic stippling is one reliable morphologic finding of thalessemia which does not appear in iron deficiency or anemia of chronic disease. The patient should be in an ethnically at risk group and the diagnosis is not confirmed without a confirmatory method such as hemoglobin HPLC, H body staining, molecular testing or another reliable method. Course basophlic stippling occurs in other cases as seen in Table 1
- Iolascon A, De Falco L, Beaumont C (January 2009). "Molecular basis of inherited microcytic anemia due to defects in iron acquisition or heme synthesis". Haematologica 94 (3): 395–408. doi:10.3324/haematol.13619. PMC 2649346. PMID 19181781.
- Weng, CH; Chen JB; Wang J; Wu CC; Yu Y; Lin TH (2011). "Surgically Curable Non-Iron Deficiency Microcytic Anemia: Castleman's Disease.". Onkologie 34 (8-9): 456–8. doi:10.1159/000331283. PMID 21934347.
- Ford, J. (June 2013). "Red blood cell morphology". International Journal of Laboratory Hematology 35 (3): 351–357. doi:10.1111/ijlh.12082.