Anaemia is a deficiency in the number or quality of red blood cells. The red blood cells carry oxygen around the body, using a particular protein called haemoglobin. Anaemia means that either the level of red blood cells or the level of haemoglobin is lower than normal.
When a person is anaemic, their heart has to work harder to pump the quantity of blood needed to get sufficient oxygen around their body. During heavy exercise, the cells may not be able to carry enough oxygen to meet the body’s needs and the person can become exhausted. Anaemia isn’t a disease in itself, but a result of a malfunction somewhere in the body. This blood condition is common, particularly in females. Some estimates suggest that around one in five menstruating women and half of all pregnant women are anaemic.
Causes of anaemia
Anaemia has many causes, including:
Dietary deficiency – lack of iron, vitamin B12 or folic acid in the diet.
Malabsorption – where the body is not able to use the nutrients in the diet, caused by conditions such as coeliac disease.
Inherited disorders – such as thalassaemia or sickle cell disease.
Autoimmune disorders – such as autoimmune haemolytic anaemia, where the immune cells attack the red blood cells and decrease their life span.
Chronic diseases – such as rheumatoid arthritis and tuberculosis.
Hormone disorders – such as hypothyroidism.
Bone marrow disorders – such as cancer or infection.
Blood loss – due to trauma, surgery, cancer, peptic ulcer, heavy menstruation, bowel cancer or frequent blood donations.
Drugs and medications – including alcohol, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs or anti-coagulant medications.
Infection – such as malaria and septicaemia, which reduce the life span of red blood cells.
Periods of rapid growth or high energy requirements – such as puberty or pregnancy.
The symptoms of anaemia :
*Drop in blood pressure when standing from a sitting or lying position (orthostatic hypotension) – this may happen after acute blood loss, like a heavy period
*Racing heart or palpitations
*Becoming irritated easily
*Cracked or reddened tongue
*Loss of appetite
*Strange food cravings.
Rare risk Groups
*Menstruating women (Periods)
*Pregnant and breastfeeding women
*Babies, especially if premature
*Children going through puberty
*People with cancer, stomach ulcers and some chronic diseases
*People on fad diets
Anaemia is diagnosed using a number of tests including:
*Medical history – including any chronic illnesses and regular medications
*Blood tests – including complete blood count and blood iron levels, vitamin B12, folate and kidney function tests
*Urine tests – for detecting blood in the urine
*Gastroscopy or colonoscopy
*Bone marrow biopsy
*Faecal occult blood test – examining a stool sample for the presence of blood.
Treatment depends on the cause and severity, but may include:
Vitamin and mineral supplements – in the case of deficiency.
Iron injections – if the person is very low on iron.
Vitamin B12 (by injection) – required for pernicious anaemia.
Antibiotics – if infection is the cause.
Altering the dose or regimen of regular medications -such as anti-inflammatory drugs, if necessary.
Blood transfusions – if required.
Oxygen therapy – if required.
Surgery to prevent abnormal bleeding – such as heavy menstruation.
Surgery to remove the spleen (splenectomy) – in cases of severe haemolytic anaemia.
Please note: Consult your doctor when Take iron supplements. The human body isn’t very good at excreting iron and you could poison yourself if you take more than the recommended dose.