What is anaemia?
When your blood is unable to carry enough oxygen around your body, anaemia can develop. The deficiency in the oxygen carriage is due to there being too few red blood cells being generated by your body, or through some abnormality with these cells. When this occurs there can be the onset of a range of symptoms.
Symptoms of anaemia include:HeadachesBreathlessnessPallid complexionDizzy spells, bouts of faintness and overwhelming fatigueAn overall feeling of lethargy and a loss of interest in activities that you would normally enjoyIncreased heart-rate and sometimes heart palpitationsSore throat, mouth, tongue and gumsBrittle nailsTinnitusAn inability to taste food and drink as normalDifficulty swallowingWeight-lossCauses
As well as iron deficiency anaemia, there are four other ‘main’ types of anaemia:
Pernicious anaemia – where not enough Vitamin B12 is absorbed by your body from the food that you eat.
Megaloblastic anaemia – also due to a lack of Vitamin B12 as well as your body being unable to absorb sufficient amounts of Folic Acid. With this form of anaemia, your red blood cells are abnormally large.
Haemolytic anaemia – where the blood cells break down and trigger a range of unpleasant symptoms.
Aplastic anaemia – when your bone marrow fails to produce enough red blood cells, Aplastic anaemia develops. This is a rare condition.
This article will focus upon iron deficiency anaemia: the most common type of anaemia and a condition that affects thousands of people across the UK. In fact, iron deficiency anaemia affects up to a third of the world’s population – a staggering statistic.
Iron deficiency anaemia is caused by your body struggling to cope with a lack of iron. This loss of iron can be due to your body losing blood (during a woman’s menstrual cycle, for example) and also after sudden weight-loss. For some people, the development of iron deficiency anaemia can be caused by a serious disease, such as cancer.
If you are experiencing the aforementioned symptoms and associated symptoms of anaemia, or you think you may have a genetic predisposition to having the condition, (that is, it is already in the family and may have been passed down), then arrange to see your GP.
After taking your medical history and asking you some questions about your symptoms (such as when and how often they occur and if they would appear to happen as a result of certain triggers), your GP will take a blood test to measure the amount of haemoglobin in your blood, as well as the number of blood cells. If the result of the test indicates a possible confirmed diagnosis of anaemia, an appropriate treatment will be recommended to you.
Although anaemia cannot be cured as such, GPs generally prescribe suitable ‘iron replacement’ medication to make up for the iron missing from your body. This is usually in tablet-form. For those who find tablets difficult to tolerate, a liquid medicine can be prescribed. After completing your course of treatment your GP will most likely recommend that you continue to take over-the-counter iron supplements. They may also be able to advise you regarding a suitable iron-rich diet.
Foods that are rich in iron include red meat, vegetables, eggs and wholemeal bread.
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