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What are the symptoms of anaemia and how to diagnose it?

Updated on October 1, 2011
Photo by rpongsaj.
Photo by rpongsaj.

What are the symptoms of anaemia?

The symptoms of anaemia may be vague and can be caused by other causes other than anemia. Each type of anaemia has its own specific symptoms but there are common broad symptoms than can be found in all cases of anaemia, in addition to the special symptoms in each type.

Generally, anaemia is caused be a decrease in the amount of hemoglobin and/or the number of red blood cells. There are classifications and different types of anemia but they mostly share some common symptoms and signs.

Anemia occurs when hemoglobin concentration is below (13 gm/dl) in men or (11.5 gm/dl) in women. Hemoglobin is the part of RBCs that contain iron and its function is to carry oxygen to the tissues. The main symptoms of anaemia include:

  • Easy fatigability, weakness and lack of energy. Even the simple activities feel very difficult.
  • Pallor.
  • Anorexia (decreased appetite) and nausea.
  • Lack of concentration and dizziness.
  • Headache and tinnitus.
  • Palpitation (awareness of heart beats).
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Nails may become britle and lusterless.

Tissues need oxygen to function normally and utilize energy. The lack of oxygen results in these symptoms and it affects many parts of your body.The body tries to compensate by increasing the blood pressure and the heart rate, in very severe cases of anemia, heart failure (anemic heart failure) may occur if anaemia is left untreated for long periods. This is one of the complications of anaemia that occur late in the disease.

Acute loss of large amounts of blood can cause anemia. photo by makelessnoise.
Acute loss of large amounts of blood can cause anemia. photo by makelessnoise.

Causes of anaemia

There are three main causes of anemia:

-Decreased production of red blood cells.
-Destruction of RBCs (hemolysis).
-Loss of blood (acute or chronic haemorrhage).

As we said before, iron is a part of hemoglobin and is needed to synthesize hemoglobin. That is why iron deficiency is a cause of anaemia and the most common cause in many countries of the world. Other deficiesncies may cause anaemia, too; such as vitamin B12 deficiency and folic acid ddeficiency. Anemia may appear very early in life (specially in cases of congenital hemolytic anaemia) or may appear later in life as a result of bad dieting habits, exposure to infections, the side effects of some drugs or in some other diseases and malignancies.

The doctor will ask for the following tests to diagnose anaemia:

  • Hemoglobin levels, RBCs count (CBC).
  • Serum iron concentration.
  • Serum ferritin concentration.
  • Reticulocytic count.

Then further investigations are done to diagnose the type and cause of anemia. If you feel that you have some of the symptoms of anaemia, seek medical advice as there might be other causes of fatigue and tiredness and your doctor will ask for the appropriate tests to diagnose your case.

Treatment of anaemia:

Depends on the cause of anaemia. If the cause is iron deficiency, supplementary iron is prescribed as well as a diet rich in iron. If the cause is congential, repeated blood transfusion and iron chelating agents may be required for survival for life. Bone marrow transplantation is the new option suggested for these cases as well as in cases of aplastic anaemia.

I can't discuss the treatment of anaemia in one hub and it really depends on the cause and the type of anaemia.


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    • Mezo profile image

      Motaz 8 years ago from Egypt

      you are welcome :)

    • H P Roychoudhury profile image

      H P Roychoudhury 8 years ago from Guwahati, India

      Good informative hub. Thanks for sharing.