Anaemia: Types, Symptoms and Causes

Anaemia is a medical condition that occurs when the number of healthy red blood cells in the body is too low. Red blood cells function to transport oxygen to all the body’s tissues. A lower amount of red blood cells count may indicate that the amount of oxygen in the blood is lower than it should be.


Anemia is measured in terms of the amount of haemoglobin in the blood. It is the protein within red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissues. Many symptoms of anaemia appear due to decreased oxygen delivery to the body’s vital tissues and organs. Treatments for anaemia vary from taking supplements (recommended by doctors) to undergoing medical procedures. People might be able to prevent and cure some types of anemia by eating a healthy & diverse diet.
Types of anemia:
1. Aplastic anaemia: This type of anemia is rare but life-threatening. Aplastic anemia occurs when the body doesn't produce enough red blood cells. Infections, certain medications, autoimmune disorders, and exposure to toxic chemicals are possible causes of aplastic anemia.
2. Iron deficiency anaemia: Iron deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia, which is caused by a deficiency of iron in the body. The bone marrow needs iron for the production of haemoglobin. Without an adequate amount of iron, the body is unable to produce enough haemoglobin for red blood cells.
3. Sickle cell anaemia: This serious condition is haemolytic anaemia, and is usually inherited. This type of anemia is caused by a defective form of haemoglobin that forces red blood cells to assume an abnormal sickle shape. These abnormal blood cells die prematurely, resulting in a chronic shortage of red blood cells.

4. Thalassemia: Thalassemia is an inherited blood disorder. In this condition, the body makes an abnormal form or an inadequate amount of haemoglobin. Haemoglobin is a protein found in red blood cells responsible for carrying oxygen. The disorder results in destructions of red blood cells in a considerable amount, which leads to anaemia.
5. Vitamin deficiency anaemia: Besides iron, the body also needs folate and vitamin B-12 to produce enough red blood cells. A diet lacking in folate, vitamin B-12 and vital nutrients can cause low production of red blood cells.


What causes anemia?


Dietary iron, vitamin B-12, and folate are essential elements for the production of healthy red blood cells. Approximately one percent of the body’s red blood cells are replaced every day, and the average lifespan for RBC is 100 to 120 days. Any process that negatively affects this number between red blood cell production and destruction can cause anaemia. 


Causes of anaemia generally depend on those factors that decrease red blood cell production and those that increase red blood cell destruction.

Factors that decrease red blood cell production


Things that reduce red blood cell production, causing anaemia, include:


  • Inadequate stimulation of red blood cell production by the hormone erythropoietin.
  • Insufficient dietary intake of iron, vitamin B-12, or folate
  • Hypothyroid


Overall, the most important cause of anemia is iron deficiency. It reports for nearly half of all anaemia cases and is a major disorder worldwide.




Signs and symptoms of anemia are mild that it can go unnoticed in the beginning. More worsen symptoms of anemia includes:


  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Fast or unusual heartbeat
  • Headache
  • Pain in bones belly and joints
  • Growth retardation in children and teens
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pale or yellow skin
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Tiredness or weakness


Risk factors


Factors that may influence the risk of anemia:


A diet lacking in vitamins and minerals - A diet constantly low in iron, vitamin B-12, and folate increases the risk of anemia.

Intestinal disorders - Having an intestinal disorder can affect the absorption of nutrients in the small intestine, such as Crohn's disease and celiac disease, which puts an individual's health at risk of being anemic.

Menstruation - In general, women who haven't had menopause have a higher chance of iron deficiency anemia than postmenopausal women. Menstruation causes loss of blood and, ultimately, loss of red blood cells.

Pregnancy - If a lady is pregnant and isn't taking a multivitamin with folic acid and iron, there is an increased risk of anemia. Always consult your doctor before taking any multivitamins. 

Chronic conditions - If a person is suffering from cancer, kidney failure, diabetes, or another chronic condition, the risk of anemia could be higher. These conditions can lead to a scarcity of red blood cells.

Family history - If an individual has a family history of inherited anemia, such as sickle cell anemia, that individual might be at increased risk of the condition.

Other factors - History of few infections, blood disorders, and some autoimmune disorders may increase the risk of anemia. Also, alcoholism, exposure or toxic chemicals, and the use of some medications can affect RBCs production and lead to anemia.

Age - People over age 65 are more prone to an increased risk of anemia.


If left untreated, anemia can lead to further health consequences, such as:


Severe fatigue - Some severe anemia can make an individual lethargic and it may interfere with daily tasks.

Pregnancy complications - Pregnant women having folate deficiency. Anemia may cause certain complications, such as premature birth.

Heart problems - Anemia may also cause a rapid or irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). The heart of an anemic person pumps more blood to make up for the lack of oxygen in the blood. This can lead to heart failure.

Death - Some inherited anemias can lead to life-threatening complications, such as sickle cell anemia. Losing a lot of blood at a higher rate results in acute, severe anemia, and it can be fatal.

Some anemias can't be prevented. But some of them can be preventable, such as iron and vitamin deficiency anemias by eating a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of vitamins and minerals, including:

Iron - Iron-rich foods include beans, lentils, iron-fortified cereals, dark green leafy vegetables, and dried fruit.

Folate - This is an important nutrient for RBCs production. It is a synthetic form of folic acid that can be found in fruits and its juices, green leafy vegetables, green peas, kidney beans, peanuts, and enriched grain products, such as bread, cereal, pasta, and rice.

Vitamin B-12 - Vitamin B-12 rich foods include dairy products, fortified cereal, and soy products.

Vitamin C - Food rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits, peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, melons, and strawberries. They play an essential role in iron absorption.

Tests to diagnose anemia may be:

Complete blood count (CBC) - The CBC blood test evaluates the number of the red blood cells. Along with RBCs, it also shows if levels of white blood cells and platelets.

Serum iron levels - This blood test gives confirmation if iron deficiency is the cause of anemia.

Ferritin test - This blood test analyses the storage of iron in the blood.

Vitamin B-12 test - This blood test measures the amount of vitamin B-12 levels.

Folic acid test - This blood test reveals information about folate levels, whether they are low or not.

Stool test for occult blood - In this test, a chemical is applied to a stool sample to see the presence of blood. If the test is positive, it indicates that blood is being lost somewhere in the gastrointestinal tract.


[Always consult your doctor before going for any test]



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