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What is Anaemia?

Anaemia is a common nutritional deficiency disorder and a global public health problem that affects both developing and developed countries, with serious implications for human health and social and economic development (WHO 2005). Anaemia is caused due to deficiency of Blood cells.

According to WHO (2004), one-third of the world's population (over 2 billion) is anaemic as a result of an imbalance in their nutritious food intake. So, in this article, we learn more about anaemia – its types, causes of anaemia, symptoms, and treatments.

Anaemia Definition: 

Anemia is a condition in which your body does not have enough healthy red blood cells to transport enough oxygen to your tissues. Anaemia can cause fatigue and weakness.

There are numerous types of anaemia, each with its own set of causes. Anaemia can be mild to severe, and it can be temporary or chronic. 

Anaemia treatments range from taking supplements to having medical procedures performed.

Symptoms of Anaemia:

Anaemia symptoms can be so subtle that people may not even notice them. Symptoms frequently develop as the number of blood cells decreases. Symptoms of anaemia can range from mild to severe, depending on the cause.

  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or the sensation that you are about to pass out

  • A rapid or unusual heartbeat

  • Migraine

  • Pain in your bones, chest, abdomen, and joints

  • Growth issues in children and teenagers

  • Shortness of breath Pale or yellow skin

  • Hands and feet are freezing.

  • Tiredness or apathy

Types of Anaemia:

There are over 400 different types of anaemia, which are classified into three categories:

  1. Anaemia as a result of blood loss

  2. Anaemia caused by a reduction in or failure of red blood cell production

  3. Anaemia caused by red blood cell destruction

I. Anaemia as a Result of Blood Loss

Bleeding can result in the loss of red blood cells. This can happen gradually over time, Among the possible causes are:

  • Ulcers, haemorrhoids, gastritis (gastric inflammation), and cancer are all gastrointestinal conditions.

  • NSAIDs, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, can cause ulcers and gastritis.

  • A woman's period, particularly if she has heavy menstruation (or heavy period). This may be related to fibroids.

  • Also known as post-trauma or post-surgery.

II. Anaemia Caused by a Reduction in or Failure of Red Blood Cell Production-

With this type of anaemia, your body may not produce enough blood cells or they may not function properly. This can happen if something is wrong with your red blood cells or if you don't get enough minerals and vitamins to help your red blood cells form normally. The following conditions are associated with these causes of anaemia:

  • Problems with bone marrow and stem cells

  • Anaemia caused by a lack of iron

  • Sickle cell disease

  • Anaemia caused by a lack of vitamins, specifically b12 or folate.

Problems with bone marrow and stem cells may prevent your body from producing enough red blood cells. Some of the stem cells in your bone marrow will develop into red blood cells. Anaemia can occur if there aren't enough stem cells, if they don't work properly, or if they are replaced by other cells, such as cancer cells. Anaemia caused by bone marrow or stem cell problems includes the following:

1. Aplastic Anaemia

  • Aplastic anaemia is a blood disorder that occurs when the body's bone marrow fails to produce enough new blood cells. This can lead to a variety of health issues such as arrhythmias, an enlarged heart, heart failure, infections, and bleeding. 

  • Aplastic anaemia is caused by stem cell damage in the bone marrow.

  • Aplastic anaemia can be caused by a variety of acquired diseases, conditions, and factors, including pesticides, arsenic, and benzene, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, medicines chloramphenicol, Infectious diseases such as hepatitis, Epstein-Barr virus, cytomegalovirus, parvovirus B19, and HIV, and Autoimmune disorders such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Aplastic anaemia can be caused by inherited conditions such as Fanconi anaemia, Shwachman-Diamond syndrome, dyskeratosis, and Diamond-Blackfan anaemia.

  • Fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, headache, coldness in your hands or feet, pale skin, gums, and nail beds, and chest pains are the most common symptoms of aplastic anaemia. 

  • Aplastic anaemia is treated with blood transfusions, blood and marrow stem cell transplants, and medication. These treatments can help to prevent or limit complications, alleviate symptoms, and improve the overall quality of life. Transplants of blood and marrow stem cells may be able to cure the disorder.

2. Lead Poisoning 

  • Lead is toxic to your bone marrow, resulting in fewer red blood cells. Lead poisoning can occur when adults come into contact with lead at work, for example, or when children consume lead paint chips.

  •  It can also be contracted if your food comes into contact with improperly glazed pottery.

 3. Thalassemia

  • Thalassemia is caused by a problem with haemoglobin formation (4 chains are not formed correctly). One produces extremely small red blood cells—enough to be asymptomatic, or enough to be severe. 

  • It is inherited and most commonly affects people of Mediterranean, African, Middle Eastern, and Southeast Asian descent.

  • Alpha- and beta-thalassaemia are the two most common types of thalassaemia. The most severe form of alpha thalassaemia is known as hydrops fetalis, and the most severe form of beta thalassaemia is known as thalassaemia major or Cooley's anaemia.

  • In red blood cells, haemoglobin has two types of protein chains: alpha-globin and beta-globin. Red blood cells do not form properly and cannot carry enough oxygen if your body does not produce enough of these protein chains. 

  • Genes govern how the body synthesizes haemoglobin protein chains. Thalassaemias occur when these genes are missing or altered. 

  • Thalassaemias are genetic disorders that are passed down from parents to their children.

  • Thalassaemia symptoms are caused by a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream. The severity of symptoms is proportional to the severity of the disorder. 

  • Mild anaemia can occur in people with alpha or beta thalassaemia, and mild to moderate anaemia can occur in people with beta thalassaemia intermedia. 

  • Other health issues that they may have include slowed growth and delayed puberty, bone problems, and an enlarged spleen. 

  • People with haemoglobin H disease, also known as beta thalassaemia major, have severe thalassaemia as well as other serious health issues. 

  • Pale and drowsy appearance, a lack of appetite, dark Urine, Jaundice, slowed growth and delayed puberty, Spleen, liver, and heart enlargement, as well as bone problems.

  • Blood transfusions, iron chelation therapy, and folic acid supplements are three “standard treatments” used to treat moderate and severe forms of thalassaemia.

4. Iron Deficiency Anaemia

  • Iron is required for a variety of human body activities, particularly haemoglobin synthesis. 

  • Iron deficiency anaemia is a condition in which the body's bloodstream contains insufficient iron. This type of anaemia is more common in adolescents and women before menopause. 

  • Causes of iron deficiency anaemia: This disease can be caused by blood loss from heavy periods, internal bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract, or donating too much blood.

  • A low iron level, which leads to anaemia, can be caused by a variety of factors. Pregnancy or childhood growth spurts are the most common causes of iron deficiency anaemia. 

  • Extremely heavy menstrual cycles, Iron absorption is poor. Bleeding from the intestines, dietary factors (low iron diet, restricted diet), and medication (aspirin ibuprofen, naproxen, and diclofenac), Certain vitamins are deficient (folic acid and vitamin B12), Kidney bleeds Infection with hookworm, Problems with red blood cells Problems with the bone marrow.

  • Iron-deficiency Anaemia Symptoms: Tiredness, lethargy, feeling faint and easily becoming breathless, headaches, palpitations (irregular heartbeats), altered taste, sore mouth, and ringing in the ears (tinnitus). 

  • Pregnancy anaemia increases the risk of complications for both mother and baby, such as low birth weight, premature delivery, and postnatal depression. Anaemia in a newborn baby can also be caused by low iron reserves.

5. Sickle Cell Anaemia

  • Sickle Cell anaemia is a type of anaemia in which the body produces sickle-shaped ("C") red blood cells. It has abnormal haemoglobin, which gives it a sickle shape and makes it difficult to move through blood vessels.

  • Sickle cell clumps obstruct blood flow to the limbs and organs. Pain, serious infections, and organ damage are all caused by blocked blood vessels. 

  • Sickle cells typically die after 10 to 20 days, and the body is unable to produce enough red blood cells to replace the dying ones, resulting in anaemia.

  • Symptoms: Sickle cell anaemia is a lifelong inherited disease that is most common in Africa, South or Central America, Caribbean islands, Mediterranean countries, India, and Saudi Arabia. Fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, headache, cold hands and feet, pale skin, and chest pain are some of the symptoms.

6. Megaloblastic Anaemia

  • The most common cause of Vitamin B12 and B9 deficiency is megaloblastic anaemia. 

  • Vitamin B12 is required for survival. It is required for the body to produce new cells, such as the numerous new red blood cells produced each day. Meat, fish, eggs, and milk all contain vitamin B12. 

  • Megaloblastic Anaemia Causes: A lack of vitamin B12 causes anaemia and, in some cases, other problems. 

  • Pernicious anaemia is a type of megaloblastic anaemia that typically appears after the age of 50. Women are more likely to be affected than men, and it runs in families. People with other autoimmune diseases are more likely to develop it. 

  • Certain medications may also impair vitamin B12 absorption. Metformin, colchicine, neomycin, and some anticonvulsants used to treat epilepsy are the most common examples.

  • Symptoms: Psychological issues such as depression, confusion, memory problems, or even dementia, as well as neurological issues such as numbness, pins and needles, vision changes, and unsteadiness, can arise. Prolonged or severe vitamin B12 deficiency may thus result in permanent brain or nerve damage.

Anaemia, which is often associated with other chronic conditions, occurs when your body does not produce enough hormones to produce red blood cells. These are some of the conditions that can cause this type of anaemia:

  • Kidney disease that has progressed.

  • Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce advancing years.

  • Cancer, infection, lupus, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis are examples of long-term diseases.

III.  Anaemia Caused by Red Blood Cell Destruction

When red blood cells are fragile and unable to withstand the stress of travelling through your body, they may burst, resulting in hemolytic anaemia. This condition may be present at birth or develop later in life. 

The causes of hemolytic anaemia are sometimes unclear, but they can include:

  • An immune system attack, such as lupus. This can happen to anyone, including a newborn or a baby still in the womb. This is known as the hemolytic disease of the newborn.

  • Sickle cell anaemia, thalassemia, and thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP) are all conditions that can be passed down through your genes. 

  • Enlarged Spleen. In rare cases, this can trap red blood cells and destroy them too soon.

  • Infections, drugs, snake or spider venom, or certain foods can all put a strain on your body.

  • Toxins resulting from advanced liver or kidney disease

  • Vascular grafts, prosthetic heart valves, tumours, severe burns, contact with certain chemicals, severe hypertension, and clotting disorders are all risk factors.

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FAQs on Anemia

Q1. State Some Signs and Symptoms of Anaemia.

Ans. Signs and symptoms of anaemia-

Depending on the cause of your anaemia, you may not experience any symptoms. If signs and symptoms do occur, they may include:

  • Tiredness

  • Weakness

  • pale or yellowish skin

  • irregular heartbeats

  • Breathing difficulty

  • Lightheadedness or dizziness

  • Chest ache

  • cold hands and feet 

  • Migraines

Q2.  What is Thalassemia? What Causes Anaemia of Such Type?

Ans. Thalassemia is an inherited (passed down from parents to children via genes) blood disorder that occurs when the body doesn't produce enough haemoglobin, a protein that is essential for the formation of red blood cells.

Thalassemia is caused by mutations in the DNA of cells that produce haemoglobin, the substance found in red blood cells that transports oxygen throughout the body. The mutations that cause thalassemia are passed down from parents to children.

Q3. What are Iron Deficiency Symptoms?

Ans. Some symptoms of Iron deficiency anaemia are-

  • Extreme fatigue.

  • Weakness.

  • Pale skin.

  • Chest pain, fast heartbeat, or shortness of breath.

  • Headache, dizziness, or lightheadedness.

  • Cold hands and feet.

  • Inflammation or soreness of your tongue.

  • Brittle nails.