A quick primer to Anaemia: its causes, symptoms and treatment
Anaemia is a common condition affecting a lot of people, particularly those in the developing world. It is caused when the haemoglobin count within the red blood cells drops below a certain healthy limit. Haemoglobin is an iron containing protein inside the red blood cells and is responsible for carrying oxygen That is why low haemoglobin is linked to iron deficiency and anaemia. As haemoglobin is an oxygen carrier, a low haemoglobin count causes fatigue in the person. Thus there is a lot of correlation between low haemoglobin, iron deficiency, increased weakness and fatigue. Let’s look at the specific causes of anaemia, symptoms and treatment. Anaemia causes The normal RBC count in women is 12gms/ decilitre of blood while it is 15gms/decilitre in men. If tests indicate below-normal levels, the physician will typically perform certain other blood tests with the objective of identifying the root cause of the problem. There are 3 primary anaemia causes:
If the body loses more blood than it is able to replace, you may become anaemic. For example, women who experience very heavy menstrual periods or people who suffer from internal bleeding that is caused by ulcers or digestive issues are at high risk of suffering from the condition. In some cases, this kind of blood loss is not very evident and might also go unnoticed, until the point of time that anaemia is indicated in a blood test. Anaemia can also be caused by external bleeding from trauma or injury.
Low levels of RBC
Even if there is no bleeding, the old red blood cells in your body have to be replaced by new ones. In some cases, the body is not able to replenish the RBC’s in your body or these cells might also have insufficient haemoglobin due to:
- Diet– If your diet lacks foods that contain iron, Vitamin B12, folic acid & other essential nutrients, it can have a negative impact on the production of red blood cells
- Medical conditions– Certain chronic illnesses such as diabetes, kidney disease, cancer and AIDS might interfere with the ability of the body to produce RBCs. Pregnant women are also prone to anaemia
- Genetic disorders– Conditions like aplastic anaemia (a genetic blood disorder condition where the body’s bone marrow does not produce enough new blood cells) can be inherited. This prevents children’s bodies from producing sufficient RBCs. Other inherited conditions such as haemolytic anaemia & sickle cell anaemia can also prompt the human body to destroy RBCs.
- Higher RBC destruction– Certain diseases may cause the body to react against its own RBCs and destroy them. For instance, anaemia that is the result of an illness can affect the spleen. This organ performs the function of expelling the worn-out RBC’s from the body. An enlarged/diseased spleen might expel more RBC’s than what it normally should.
Anaemia Symptoms Anaemic people generally experience a lot of fatigue. As the condition worsens, other physical changes and anaemia symptoms manifest themselves and you might experience:
- Shortness of breath
- Racing or irregular heartbeat
- Chest pain
- Cold hands and feet
- Inability to concentrate
- Inability to think clearly
- Sexual dysfunction
- Paleness of skin
- Brittleness in nails
- Wounds/cuts that takes longer to stop bleeding
At the outset, when the anaemia is mild or light, the symptoms might be very light. Our bodies have the ability to adapt and they try their level best to compensate for all that lack of oxygen in the bloodstream. But as the anaemia worsens, your body will lose its adaptability and that is when the symptoms will be more noticeable. If you have been experiencing any of these symptoms, consult your doctor without delay.
If you have been diagnosed with anaemia, the treatment will depend on the cause, type & the severity of your condition. Regardless of what the treatment is, the goal is to up the levels of oxygen in your red blood cells. This is actioned by increasing the RBC count and/or the haemoglobin level. Based on the diagnosis, your doctor might prescribe some supplements like Iron, Vitamin B12, Folic acid, Vitamin C or certain medication. You will also be asked to make some dietary changes. If the anaemia is too severe, you might have to undergo blood loss treatment like blood transfusion. In case the anaemia is caused by stomach ulcers or cancer, surgery may be necessitated. To a large degree, the success of anaemia treatment lies in early detection, accurate diagnosis and immediate intervention. Have you ever had symptoms of anaemia? Have you tried any home remedies or supplements that have effectively helped to improve the condition? Please share your experience and thoughts on this.