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Anaemia- Types, Symptoms & Causes

Medikoe Health Expert

Medikoe Health Expert

  Koramangala, bengaluru, karnataka, india, Bengaluru     Sep 23, 2020

   5 min     



Anaemia (also spelt anemia) is a decrease in the total amount of red blood cells or haemoglobin in the blood, as well as a decreased ability of the blood to carry oxygen. Anaemia can make you feel weak, tired and can lower your productivity or ability to work.

Haemoglobin is required to carry oxygen, and in case you have very few red blood cells or haemoglobin, there will be a reduced capacity of the blood to carry oxygen into the human body's tissues.

Anaemia is one of the most common blood disorders, affecting nearly 1/3 of the global population. Iron-deficiency anaemia itself affects around 1 billion people. Anaemia is more common in women than in men. It can occur to women during pregnancy, and in the elderly and children.

There are various forms of anaemia, each with its own cause. It can be long term or temporary and can range from mild to severe. 

WHO estimates that 42% of children less than five years of age and 40% of pregnant women worldwide are anaemic.

Types of Anaemia

  • Aplastic anaemia

  • Iron deficiency anaemia

  • Sickle cell anaemia

  • Thalassemia

  • Vitamin deficiency anaemia

Symptoms of Anaemia

Anaemia goes undetected in a large number of people, and symptoms can be minor. These symptoms can either be related to an underlying cause or the anaemia itself. If the anaemia is caused due to a chronic disease, the disease can mask the symptoms, so the anaemia might be detected by tests for an underlying condition. Common symptoms for anaemia are:

  • Lightheadedness, dizziness or feeling like one is about to pass out

  • Headache

  • Fast or unusual heartbeat

  • Problems with growth and development, for children and teens

  • Pain, including in your joints, bones, chest and belly

  • Skin that's yellow or pale

  • Shortness of breath

  • Weakness or tiredness

  • Cold feet and hands

Causes of Anaemia

Anaemia is decreasing red blood cells or haemoglobin in the blood, as well as a decreased ability of the blood to carry oxygen. It can make you feel weak, breathless, tired and can lower your productivity or ability to work. 

Causes of anaemia are usually divided into those that decrease red blood cell production and the ones that increase red blood cell destruction. There are more than 400 types of anaemia, and they are divided into three following groups

  • Your body does not generate enough red blood cells (RBCs)

  • Your body destroys the existing red blood cells (RBCs)

  • Bleeding causes you to lose the red blood cells (RBCs) faster than they can be replaced

Different types of anaemia have different causes. They include:

  • Iron deficiency anaemia. This most common type of anaemia is caused due to a shortage of iron in the body. The bone marrow needs iron to generate haemoglobin. Without sufficient iron, your body can not produce adequate haemoglobin for red blood cells (RBCs). Without iron supplementation, this form of anaemia occurs in lots of pregnant women. It is also caused due to blood loss, such as from cancer, an ulcer heavy menstrual bleeding and regular use of some over-the-counter pain relievers, notably aspirin, which tends to cause inflammation of the stomach lining resulting in gradual blood loss.

  • Vitamin deficiency anaemia. Apart from iron, your body needs vitamin B-12 and folate to produce sufficient red blood cells (RBCs). A diet lacking these key nutrients can lead to decreased red blood cell (RBC) production. In some cases, people consuming enough B-12 are not able to absorb the vitamin well or at all. This can cause vitamin deficiency anaemia, also known as the pernicious anaemia.

  • Anaemia of inflammation. Certain diseases like cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, HIV/AIDS, Crohn's disease, kidney disease and other acute or chronic provocative diseases can conflict with the production of red blood cells (RBCs).

  • Aplastic anaemia. This rare, life-threatening anaemia happens when the body does not produce enough red blood cells (RBCs). Causes of aplastic anaemia are certain medicines, infections, exposure to toxic chemicals and autoimmune diseases.

  • Anaemias associated with bone marrow disease. A number of conditions, such as myelofibrosis and leukaemia, can cause anaemia by affecting your blood production in the bone marrow. Effects that these types of cancer and cancer-like disorders bring may vary from being mild to life-threatening.

  • Hemolytic anaemias. This group of anaemias emerges when the red blood cells (RBCs) are destroyed more quickly than the bone marrow can replace them. Some blood diseases improve red blood cell destruction. You can inherit a hemolytic anaemia, or you can develop it sometime later in life.

  • Sickle cell anaemia. This inherited, and the seldom serious condition is also termed as hemolytic anaemia. It is caused by a defective form of haemoglobin which forces the red blood cells (RBCs) to assume a sickle (abnormal crescent) shape. These irregular blood cells can die prematurely, resulting in a chronic shortage of red blood cells (RBCs).

Diagnosis of Ananemia

A diagnosis of anaemia starts with both your health history and your family health history, along with a physical exam.

Tests to diagnose anaemia are:

  • Complete blood count (CBC)

  • Serum iron levels.

  • Ferritin test

  • Vitamin B-12 test

  • Folic acid test

  • Stool test for occult blood

Based on the results of the above tests, your doctor may order extra tests such as a barium enema, an upper GI, chest X-rays and a CT scan of your abdomen.

Risk factors of Anaemia

Certain factors place you at increased risk of anaemia:

  • A diet lacking in certain vitamins and minerals

  • Intestinal disorders

  • Menstruation

  • Pregnancy

  • Chronic conditions

  • Older age


When left untreated, anaemia can cause many health problems, such as:

  • Severe fatigue

  • Pregnancy complications

  • Heart problems

  • Death


Several types of anaemia can not be prevented. But you can very much avoid iron deficiency anaemia and vitamin deficiency anaemias by consuming a diet which includes a variety of vitamins and minerals, including:

  • Folate

  • Iron

  • Vitamin C

  • Vitamin B-12

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Tags:  Diseases ,Anaemia, red blood cells, haemoglobin, Types of Anaemia, Risk factors of Anaemia, Diagnosis of Ananemia, Aplastic anaemia, Sickle cell anaemia, Symptoms of Anaemia, Causes of Anaemia,

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