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Everything You Need to Know About Anemia - Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Last Updated: Jun 24, 2023

What is Anaemia?

Anemia is a medical condition in which the red blood cells count or the haemoglobin level drops down below than the normal level. It usually happens by either decreased red blood cells or destructed red blood cells. In this case, healthy red blood cells are not available to carry oxygen to the body parts. Anemia makes a person weak and tired.

The person suffering from anemia feels shortness of breath, headaches, fatigue and may have pale skin.The Anemic condition may be temporary or permanent and if it is left untreated might lead to serious illness. Generally it is caused due to the iron deficiency which reduces the count of the haemoglobin. But there are other factors like vitamin deficiency, other diseases which can cause anemia.

The mild form of anemia can be treated but the severe form if left untreated may lead to complications and even death. Certain points to remember about anemia are older adults are prone to the risk of developing anemia by their medical condition and poor diet.

Certain anemic forms are hereditary and there is a chance for infants being affected from their birth. Iron-deficiency anemia is the most common type and mild anemia usually develops during pregnancy and it subdues during postpartum.

What are the symptoms of severe anaemia?

Symptoms of severe anaemia are as follows:

  • Lack of red blood cells develops many symptoms but some individuals do not experience any symptoms.
  • Paleness in the face, nails or lower inner eyelid is a sign of moderate to severe anaemia.
  • Shortness of breath may occur due to the improper supply of oxygen to the muscles and tissues.
  • Since enough oxygen does not reach the brain, the brain vessels start swelling and create pressure, thus developing dizziness and headache.
  • Hair loss happens again due to the lack of oxygen supply to the hair and follicle and scalp. It makes the hair dry and damaged.
  • Restless leg syndrome is experienced by people who have a lack of iron.
  • A swollen, sore and smooth tongue can be seen in anaemic deficient persons. Even they have cracks on the corners of the mouth.
  • Lack of oxygen induces anxiety level more and the same can be subsided by taking iron supplements
  • Iron is vital for the immune system and the lack of iron leads to various infections in the body.

How does anaemia affect the body?

Iron in the blood helps the blood cells to carry enough oxygen and build up a stronger immune system, your immune system may not be working properly if you're suffering from anaemia. Also, Without enough oxygen in the red blood cells, your heart will pump harder to supplement nutrients to the rest of the body which may strain the heart muscles.

This may lead to heart failure, irregular heartbeat, an enlarged heart, or a heart murmur.

If the iron deficiency of the body does not get cured on time, the anaemia may develop complications like:

  • Depression and anxiety.
  • A higher risk of getting infected.
  • Complication during or after pregnancy. (preterm delivery and low-birth-weight babies).
  • Cardiomyopathy. ( diseases associated with the heart and surrounding muscles).
  • Underdeveloped fetus or overall child development.

What are the Three Main Causes of Anaemia?

The three main causes of anaemia are insufficient or faulty production of red blood cells, destruction of a high rate of red blood cells and abnormal bleeding. Megaloblastic anaemia is one of the faulty red cell productions and this condition may be mild and easily treatable or stern and require immediate medical intervention.

  • Gastrointestinal tract ulcers, surgeries, and injuries tend to a severe loss of blood that leads to anaemia. In some cases, blood transfusion is advised to balance the lost blood.
  • Any prolonged medical condition say cancer may lead to anaemia which is called anaemia of chronic disease.
  • Erythropoietin is a hormone released by the kidneys that help the bone marrow for making red blood cells. People with end-stage renal disease or chronic renal disease will have diminished hormones. This, in turn, mitigates the RBC production causing anaemia which is termed anaemia of chronic kidney disease.
  • Problems in the stomach or intestines lead to poor Vitamin B12 absorption. This vitamin B12 deficiency is called pernicious anaemia.
  • What precautions should be taken in Anaemia?

    We should follow some preventive measures in order to say bye to anaemia.

    • Eat an iron-rich diet to combat anaemia
    • Lessen the intake of caffeinated items as they make your body harder to absorb iron
    • Intake vitamin C easily absorb iron into your body
    • Take vitamin and iron supplements
    • Deterring abnormal bleeding by doing surgeries
    • Surgery could be performed to remove the spleen
    • Take precautionary methods if you are working with paint, batteries and petroleum
    • Athletes especially runners are prone to high risk of anaemia. This may be caused due to loss of iron through sweat, decreased iron absorption, and the use of anti-inflammatory drugs. Long-distance runners will face “foot strike hemolysis” in which RBCs are completely destroyed by the running impact. Especially, such individuals should take a more iron-rich diet.

    What are the Ways for Iron Deficiency Anaemia Diagnosis?

    Ways for iron deficiency anaemia diagnosis:

    • A complete blood count will provide overall RBC, WBC and platelet count. If the results confirm anaemia, then there are some specific tests to determine the type of anaemia.
    • To assess haemoglobin level in the blood, haemoglobin electrophoresis is done
    • Your bone marrow red cells production is determined by a reticulocyte count
    • Serum iron and serum ferritin tests help in checking the amount of iron in the blood and body
    • A peripheral blood smear test helps to determine whether anaemia caused the changes in your red blood cells to shape.
    • Red blood cell fragility is checked with the osmotic fragility test.

    Does anaemia go away?

    Your body can balance its iron levels in the blood through medication and a healthy lifestyle. Your medical healthcare professional will prescribe you a combination of iron and vitamin supplement to boost up the level of iron in your blood and build your loosen immunity.

    The root cause of anaemia can genetic or developed by age through external factors like:

    • Pregnancy
    • Heavy loss of blood during menstruation or any unnatural cause ( accident, frequent blood donation, etc.)
    • Bleeding ulcer

    The treatment of anaemia is quite effective and the patient might feel better after a couple of doses, but it is advised to take a full course until your test results conclude a perfect balance of iron in your blood. For effective treatment, one must avoid milk, caffeine, foods with high fiber, or antacids with iron supplements as they can absorb it.

    Take a 2-3 hour gap between your iron-enriched meals and these products.

    Note: Do not consume iron pills without consulting your doctor as it may create iron poisoning in the body due to overconsumption of iron supplements.

    What are the Ways for Iron Deficiency Anaemia Treatment?

    There are a certain set of instructions to be followed while taking iron supplements

    • These tablets should not be taken on an empty stomach as it may upset the stomach
    • Do not take antacids and iron together. Give at least a 2-4 hours gap.
    • Take iron tablets along with vitamin C that helps in improving iron absorption

    How long does it take to recover from anemia?

    Depending upon the severity of the case, anemia Iron deficiency could take approx. two to three weeks to cure completely.

    The recovery period of the illness also depends on the root cause of anemia. Your prescription for taking iron supplements could extend for a long period of time to prevent any relapse.

    What are the Natural Remedies for Anemia?

    The natural remedies for anemia :

    • The Spleen is responsible for red blood cell production. While nourishing the spleen with healthy food such as pumpkin, butternut and spaghetti squash and bright orange colored foods. Take at least two servings of squash in your daily diet.

    • Increased stress level will deplete the RBCs in the spleen. So, by avoiding anger, anxiety, tension and stress you can overcome anemia.

    • Taking Iron supplements, Vitamin B complex with folate helps in treating anemia.

    • Spinach, sesame seeds, pomegranates, fermented and foods rich in Beta-carotene, citrus fruits, Yogurt, drumstick leaves, Figs, Banana, Raisin, dates are fantastic easily available items to improve you from anemic disorder.

    What foods to avoid if you are anemic?

    During anemia, one may feel weak and crave for eating all kinds of food items, but some of them can be harmful as they can absorb the iron content, decreasing the iron level of the entire meal.

    So here are some of the food items that can be avoided for an effective boost of iron in the body:

    • Caffeine oriented consumables like tea and coffee.
    • Dairy products like milk.
    • Whole-grain cereals and other gluten enriched foods wheat, barley, rye, or oats.
    • Foods contain tannins and oxalic acids, like grapes, peanuts, parsley, chocolate, corn, and sorghum.
    • Consumables with phytates or phytic acids, such as brown rice and whole-grain wheat products.

    Are bananas good for anemia?

    Yes, bananas are healthy to consume for an anemia patient, The fruit is enriched in vitamin C and B6 which regulates antioxidants and glucose level in the body.

    Vitamin c is also known to strengthen the immunity system of an individual, by keeping your blood vessels healthy and produces collagen that holds muscles, bones, and other tissues together.

    During anemia, the red blood cells become weak which makes an individual easily tired. Well, optimum consultation of bananas can help you regain energy and cure other problems like paleness and shortness of breath.

    The fruit also has a long satiety level that makes an individual full for a longer period of time as compared to other fruits.

    It is advisable to eat at least 1-2 bananas a day, but consumption of bananas during anemia treatment should be kept under your dietitian's observation.

    Is coffee bad for anemia?

    Yes, consumption of caffeine on a daily basis can lower down the level of iron in your body. Elements like polyphenols and chlorogenic acid found in caffeine-rich products like coffee and tea are known to be major inhibitors of iron absorption. These components bind the iron during digestion making it difficult to digest.

    It is advisable to cut off or lower the consumption of caffeine-enriched products if a person is suffering from anemia or taking iron supplements during the treatment.

    If so, keep a gap of at least two to three hours between your iron intake and caffeine so that the iron can be fully digested without getting absorbed by polyphenols and chlorogenic acid.

    Does red wine help with anemia?

    The health benefits associated with any type of alcohol are debatable. It depends on the type of alcohol and its quantity an individual consumes.

    In the case of red wine, a glass of light red wine three times a day combined with your meal can boost your blood circulation by expanding the blood vessels.

    Although, the excess can also damage your liver and cause major heart disease, so before adding red wine to your routine, make sure to run it through your medical advisor for safety. As it can be damaging for those who have a history or already weaken heart muscles, liver, or kidney damage.


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    Written ByDr. Bhupindera Jaswant Singh Doctor of Medicine,MD - Consultant Physician,MDGeneral Physician
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