Anaemia Signs & Symptoms



What is Anaemia?

Anaemia means that you have fewer red blood cells than normal or you have less haemoglobin than normal in each red blood cell. In either case, a reduced amount of oxygen is carried around in the bloodstream. Anaemia is caused when you don’t have enough red blood cells or haemoglobin the part of your red blood cells that carries oxygen  to meet your body’s needs.  Anaemia is a condition that develops when your blood lacks enough healthy red blood cells. These cells are the main transporters of oxygen to organs. If red blood cells are also deficient in haemoglobin, then your body isn't getting enough oxygen.  

What are the common symptoms of anaemia? 

• Fatigue 

• Weakness

• Dizziness 

• Shortness of breath 

• A thumping or unusual beating of your heart- called palpitations

• Headaches 

• Looking Pale 

• Numbness or coldness in your hands or feet 

• Low body temperature 

• Chest Pain 

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What causes anaemia? 

Lack of iron is the most common cause of anaemia in the UK. This is called iron-deficiency anaemia. 

There are many other causes of anaemia. These include the following:

Lack of certain vitamins such as folic acid and vitamin B12.

Red blood cell problems, such as thalassaemia, sickle cell anaemia and other causes of haemolytic anaemia. In these conditions the red cells are fragile and break easily in the bloodstream.

Bone marrow problems and leukaemia are uncommon; however, they can cause anaemia.

Other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and chronic kidney disease can also cause anaemia.

• Excessive Bleeding 

• Genetics 

• Blood Loss 


How is anaemia diagnosed? 

Your GP will ask about your symptoms and examine you. He or she may also ask about your medical history. If your GP suspects you have anaemia, they’ll ask you to have a blood test. Your blood will be sent to the laboratory for some of the following tests.

A full blood count (FBC): This is to check the level of haemoglobin in your blood and how many of each of the different types of blood cell you have.

• A check on iron, vitamin B12, and folate levels.

A blood film test: This involves looking at your blood under a microscope to check the size and shape of your red blood cells (RBCs). It will also assess the other cells that make up your blood.

A simple blood test can measure the amount of haemoglobin in your blood and count the number of red blood cells per millilitre (ml). Although this test can confirm that you are anaemic, it does not identify the cause of your anaemia.

You may need to have further tests to help identify the cause of your anaemia. Some of these investigations may need to be done at the hospital. Depending on the type of anaemia you have, your GP may refer you to a specialist.

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How do I know if I have anaemia? 

Be aware of your risk. Iron and vitamin deficiency anaemia are two of the most common forms of anaemia and are caused by either a shortage of iron or Vitamin B12 and folate in your body. Almost any person can get iron or vitamin deficiency anaemia, so being aware of your risk can help you prevent it.The following conditions may cause a shortage of iron, vitamin B12, or folate and lead to anaemia: 

  • Vegans who don't eat animal products or people with a poor diet
  • Excessive blood loss from heavy menstrual bleeding, surgery, or other trauma
  • A gastric ulcer
  • Cancer, especially intestinal cancer
  • Polyps or other diseases, such as or Crohn’s or celiac disease, of the digestive tract
  • Prolonged use of aspirins or NSAIDS
  • Pregnancy
  • Insufficient iron, vitamin B12, or folate consumption in your diet

Anaemia Prevention Tips 

Eat a diet rich in iron: Make sure that you get enough iron through nutritious, whole foods. Eating iron-rich foods can help prevent anemia. 

  • Meats and shellfish are an excellent source of iron. Red meats, such as lean beef or beef liver and shellfish, such as clams, oysters and shrimp are excellent choices. 
  • Beans and legumes, such as lentils and green peas are high in iron. 
  • Leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, and collard greens contain high amounts of iron. 
  • Consider eating iron-fortified cereals for breakfast or a snack as a way to get more iron in your diet. 
  • All of the iron-rich animal products also contain Vitamin B12, which can also help prevent anemia. 

Increase your vitamin C and folate intake: The presence of vitamin C and folate can help the body absorb iron more efficiently. Incorporating more foods containing vitamin C and folate can help reduce your risk of developing anaemia. This includes foods such as peppers, kale, broccoli, citrus fruits, strawberries, pineapples, spinach contains vitamin C. Folate foods includes foods such as dark leafy greens, bananas, etc. 

Consume foods containing vitamin B12: Consume whole foods that contain Vitamin B12, which is found naturally in animal and soy products. Making sure you get enough Vitamin B12 may not only help you prevent anemia, but can also help your body absorb iron more efficiently. This includes foods such as 

  • Fish: try salmon, trout, and tuna
  • Shellfish: try clams and oysters
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products: try cheese and yogurt
  • Fortified cereals
  • Soy products: try soy milk, edamame, and tofu

Iron deficiency anaemia

This type of anaemia is the most common and happens if your body doesn’t have enough iron. Your body needs nutrients like iron to make something called haemoglobin. Haemoglobin is a key part of your RBCs and without it, they can’t work properly. You may become deficient in iron if:

  • you lose a lot of blood
  • you’re not getting enough iron in the foods that you’re eating
  • your body is using more iron than usual - for example, if you’re pregnant

Vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia

You need vitamin B12 for many important processes inside your body. It helps to keep your nerves healthy and is used to make RBCs. If your body lacks vitamin B12, it can’t make as many RBCs as normal. The ones it does make are larger and get removed from your bloodstream quicker than usual.

Your body may lack vitamin B12 if:

  • the foods you eat don’t contain enough vitamin B12 - a common problem for vegetarians and vegans
  • your body can’t absorb the vitamin - an immune condition called pernicious anaemia can cause this

Folate deficiency anaemia

Your body uses folate to make cells (including your RBCs). If you don’t have enough folate, your body can’t make enough RBCs to meet its needs.

You may have folate deficiency anaemia if you’re not getting enough folate from the foods you eat. Brussels sprouts, asparagus and peas are all good sources of folate. Overcooking these vegetables may destroy the folate in them, so avoid this where you can. You may also be deficient in folate when you’re pregnant. This is because your body uses more folate than usual. If this happens, you’ll usually be given a folate supplement to correct this. Some medicines can also cause folate deficiency.

Sickle cell anaemia

Sickle cell anaemia is a condition that is inherited from your parents. If you have this condition, your body makes faulty haemoglobin which causes your RBCs to form an unusual crescent shape. If you have sickle cell anaemia, your RBCs may clot under certain conditions. These blood clots then interfere with the flow of blood around your body. This is called a sickle cell or vaso-occlusive crisis.