What is Anaemia?
Your Red Blood Cells (RBCs) have a protein in them called haemoglobin. It carries oxygen to your organs and tissues and carbon dioxide back to your lungs. Anaemia is simply a condition in which the haemoglobin in your Red Blood Cells drops lower than normal. It can also be a decrease in the number of red blood cells in general.
There are many types and ranges of Anaemia or Anemia as most people call it. Some common scenarios that can cause anaemia include
Low haemoglobin in the Red Blood Cells.
Sufficient haemoglobin in the body but it doesn't work correctly.
Low Red Blood Cells in the body.
Body breaking down Red Blood Cells too quickly.
42% of children <5 years of age are anaemic.
Types of Anaemia & Anaemia Causes
There are over 400 types of Anemia. Multiple types can share causes. Some of the major types that you can skim through are:
Which Deficiency Causes Anaemia?
A lot of common reasons cause anaemia. The major causes revolve around nutritional deficiencies. The most common one of them all is the deficiency of iron. Apart from that, deficiency of folate and vitamin A & B12 are some recurring reasons too.
Some not-so-common reasons include infectious diseases. Some of them include TB, HIV, Malaria, and parasitic infection. Haemoglobinopathies are a group of haemoglobin production and molecular structure-related disorders like Thalassemia, HbCC and more.
Let's get a bird's eye view of some of the types of Anaemia & its possible causes:
Iron deficiency anemia
- Excessive bleeding or loss of blood (could be because of ulcers, periods, accidents, gastritis, surgery, or cancer).
- Lack of iron in the diet
- Pregnancy or illness demanding more iron than the body can produce
Pernicious anemia & Megaloblastic anemia
- Bodies lacking in the absorption of vitamin B12 are Pernicious Anemia.
- Bodies lacking in the production of vitamin B12 are Megaloblastic Anemia.
- Lack of vitamin B9 (folic acid) can also be clubbed under this type.
- When the body makes deformed Red Blood Cells.
- It can be because of an inherited or acquired disease.
- can also be because of a reaction to a drug.
Sickle cell anemia
- When the shape of your Red Blood Cells is faulty.
- These can clog your blood vessels.
- This can cause a lot of damage as Hb doesn't work correctly.
Diamond blackfan anemia
- This is a rare blood disorder diagnosed within the 1st year of life.
- It can be inherited or acquired.
- The bone marrow doesn't make enough Red Blood Cells.
- This is a similar type that involves bone marrow.
- It is also called bone marrow aplasia where the damaged bone marrow cannot make enough Red Blood Cells.
- Do not mistake it for myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) which is actual cancer.
- This type involves Thalassemias & Cooley’s Anemia.
- The Red Blood Cells do not last for as long.
How to measure Anaemia?
Get a blood test done measuring the Complete Blood Count ( CBC) in your body. This does not only tell the number of your Red Blood Cells but also the shape and size of them.
Get your vitamin B12 & B9 tested that tell you the storage of iron in your body. Blood iron levels and serum ferritin levels are the best indicators of iron. Reticulocyte count and bilirubin and other urine tests help too.
Anaemia deficiency is measured roughly by the Haemoglobin (Hb) distribution as per WHO standards:
Anaemic Haemoglobin (Hb) Level
Anaemic Haemoglobin (Hb) Level
Children aged up to 4/11/14 years
Some major results of Anaemia include:
Shortness of breath
Pale or yellowish skin
Cold hands and feet
Brown or red urine (mostly because of sudden cell destruction)
Easily bruised skin
Spoon shaped nails
Possible hair loss
Pica (a sign of iron deficiency when you tend to eat things like chalk or ice that are not food)
Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat or enlarged heart followed by complications)
Confusion & depression (in older adults)
Lack of attention delayed motor skills (in children)
Unintentional weight loss
Some of the varying parameters that affect the impact of these results include:
elevation of residence
40% of pregnant women worldwide are anaemic: Anaemia in Pregnancy
Anaemia with pregnancy is a very normal scenario as the mother's body often gets neglected in producing more blood for the coming baby. Vitamin B12, Iron, and Folate (found in green leafy vegetables) are the three major causes of anaemia in pregnancy.
This can result in increased chances of complications in pregnancy. Premature birth of the baby or babies born with low iron levels is a few possibilities.
Hematocrit and Haemoglobin tests are the two major tests one needs to perform to keep track. Animal foods, Iron and folic acid-rich foods (dried beans, green leafy vegetables, cereals, citrus fruits) and supplements help.
According to the 2016–2025 nutrition strategy, WHO
aims to provide universal access to healthy diets from resilient and sustainable food systems and effective nutrition interventions to people across the world.
If the efforts go in the right direction, WHO’s vision to make the world free of all forms of malnutrition would be achievable soon.
Solutions: Is Anaemia Curable?
Of course, it is. One best way to cure it is to increase your iron intake and take an anaemia diet. Have foods for iron deficiency like
nuts & seeds
beans & lentils
red meat (lean), poultry & fish
dark leafy vegetables like
iron-enriched cereals and grains
Work on better absorption of these iron-laden foods as well. Vitamin C, for example, greatly increases iron absorption in the body.
Some of the proven anaemia food include:
citrus fruits and juices
For serious cases, blood transfusions, surgeries, and bone marrow transplants are possible.
We hope this blog helped you understand Anaemia a little closely. This can become a serious illness if taken lightly so please look out for the symptoms & take care of yourself.
The Author :
Dr. Sunil Khattri
Dr Sunil Khattri MBBS, MS(General Surgery), LLB, is a Medical doctor and is a practicing Advocate in the Supreme Court of India and National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi.