Introduction to Anaemia
Anaemia is where you have less haemoglobin or fewer red blood cells in your blood than normal. Haemoglobin is the part of a red blood cell that carries oxygen around your body.
What is Anaemia?
Anaemia is where you have less haemoglobin or fewer red blood cells in your blood than normal. Haemoglobin is the part of a red blood cell that carries oxygen around your body, and is essential for meeting your body’s oxygen needs. A low concentration may be the result of either a reduced production or an increased loss of red blood cells, and has many potential causes. There are many different types, but the most common is iron deficiency anaemia, which can be seen in up to 14% of menstruating females.
What is Anaemia caused by?
Iron deficiency anaemia occurs when you do not have enough iron, which is needed to make the haemoglobin that carries oxygen around your body. You can have a lack of iron if you don’t get a sufficient amount in your diet, you lose a lot of blood, or your body starts using more iron than usual (if you are pregnant, for example).
Other types can be caused by a lack of certain vitamins. Vitamin B12 or folate deficiency, for example, can also cause anaemia. This can be the result of insufficient dietary intake, pregnancy, or a specific condition called pernicious anaemia that prevents your body from absorbing vitamin B12.
Less common causes of anaemia include chronic kidney disease, sickle cell disease, problems with your bone marrow, and conditions where your red blood cells are more fragile than usual.
What are the symptoms of Anaemia?
Anaemia can occur without causing any noticeable symptoms, and the exact set symptoms you experience will depend on the specific type and underlying cause. However, some common features shared between the various types include: Tiredness, weakness, dizziness, shortness of breath and palpitations – an unpleasant awareness of your heartbeat.
How is Anaemia treated?
our GP will ask you questions about your symptoms and medical history in order to try and find the cause of your anaemia. It is likely you will be asked to take a blood test, as this is how they identify the haemoglobin levels and the number of red blood cells in your blood. They can also use this to check your vitamin B12 and folate levels.
Sometimes the underlying cause is obvious, such as in pregnancy or heavily menstruating females, and for many people treatment will simply consist of a course of iron tablets or vitamins. In cases where dietary intake is the problem your GP will recommend some foods that will help avoid deficiency in the future. Foods that contain a lot of iron include dark green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach, red meats and dried fruits. Foods containing a lot of folate include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, chickpeas and brown rice. Eggs and dairy products are high in vitamin B12.