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- Introduction: Anaemia is a common blood disorder characterized by a decrease in red blood cells or hemoglobin levels, leading to symptoms like fatigue and weakness.
- Risk Factor: Poor diet, chronic diseases, pregnancy, and blood loss are common risk factors for anaemia.
- Causes: Anaemia can be caused by iron or vitamin deficiencies, chronic conditions, hemolysis, or bone marrow disorders.
- Diagnosis: Diagnosis involves blood tests, including CBC and additional tests to identify the specific type and cause of anaemia.
- Treatment: Treatment includes supplements, blood transfusions, and addressing underlying conditions.
- Prevention: A balanced diet, managing medical conditions, and adequate iron intake during pregnancy are essential for prevention.
- Home Care: Iron-rich diet, supplements, and a healthy lifestyle can help manage mild anaemia.
- When to Take Medical Advice: Seek medical advice if experiencing symptoms or at risk due to medical conditions.
Anaemia is a prevalent blood disorder characterized by a decrease in the number of red blood cells or a reduction in the amount of hemoglobin in the blood. This condition can lead to reduced oxygen-carrying capacity, resulting in symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath.
Anaemia affects an estimated 2.36 billion individuals globally, especially women and children. In India, according to the National Family Health Survey 4 (NFHS-4), 58.4% of children aged 6–59 months, 53.1% of nonpregnant women aged 15–49 years, 50.3% of pregnant women aged 15–49 years, 53% of all women aged 15–49 years, 22.7% of men aged 15–49 years, 54% of adolescent girls and 29% of adolescent boys were anaemic in India. (Source)
In fact, the Indian Government has also launched a health program to tackle the growing health problem of anaemia in vulnerable age groups such as women, children and adolescents. (Read more)
In this article, we will delve into the risk factors, causes, diagnosis, treatment, prevention, home care, and when to seek medical advice for anaemia.
Risk Factors for Anaemia
Several factors can increase the risk of developing anaemia, including:
- Inadequate intake of iron, vitamin B12, or folate in the diet.
- Chronic medical conditions (e.g., kidney disease, inflammatory disorders).
- Pregnancy or heavy menstrual periods leading to increased blood loss.
- Blood loss due to injury, surgery, or gastrointestinal bleeding.
- Family history of inherited anaemias, such as sickle cell anaemia or thalassemia.
Causes of Anaemia
Anaemia can be caused by various factors, each affecting the production or lifespan of red blood cells:
- Iron Deficiency Anaemia: Insufficient iron intake or impaired absorption due to poor diet or gastrointestinal conditions.
- Vitamin Deficiency Anaemia: Inadequate levels of vitamin B12 or folate in the diet, leading to decreased red blood cell production.
- Chronic Diseases: Conditions like kidney disease or inflammatory disorders can interfere with red blood cell production.
- Hemolysis: The destruction of red blood cells may occur due to certain genetic conditions or exposure to toxins.
- Bone Marrow Disorders: Diseases affecting the bone marrow can reduce red blood cell production.
- Loss of Blood through Stool or Urine: Blood might be lost in urine or stool which may or may not be visible to naked eyes.
Diagnosis of Anaemia
Diagnosing anaemia involves a series of tests to assess the severity, type, and underlying cause of the condition.
Complete Blood Count (CBC)
The first step in diagnosing anaemia is a complete blood count (CBC) test, which measures the levels of different blood components, including red blood cells, hemoglobin, hematocrit, and mean corpuscular volume (MCV).
Additional Tests for Diagnosis
Depending on the CBC results, additional tests may be performed to determine the specific type and cause of anaemia. These tests may include:
- Peripheral Blood Smear: This test allows the examination of red blood cells under a microscope to check their shape and size.
- Iron Studies: Iron levels in the blood are measured, along with other parameters like ferritin and transferrin saturation, to assess iron deficiency.
- Vitamin B12 and Folate Tests: Blood tests for vitamin B12 and folate levels help diagnose deficiencies that can lead to anaemia.
- Bone Marrow Biopsy: In certain cases, a small sample of bone marrow may be taken to evaluate the production of blood cells and assess any abnormalities.
Stool Test & Urine Test
- Urinalysis (U/A): A urine sample can detect blood in the urine, as well as other problems such as a urinary tract infection or bladder diseases that could lead to anaemia.
- Occult blood stool sample: Blood loss in the stool due to GI bleeding is a common cause of iron deficiency anaemia. A stool sample can be tested for the presence of blood.
If blood is lost via stool or urine, endoscopy is advised to see the site of blood leakage.
Treatment of Anaemia
The treatment for anaemia depends on its underlying cause and severity. Common approaches include:
For iron-deficiency anaemia, iron supplements may be prescribed to restore iron levels in the body and stimulate red blood cell production.
Anaemia caused by vitamin deficiencies (e.g., vitamin B12 or folate) can be treated with supplements to address the specific deficiency.
In severe cases of anaemia or when rapid increase in red blood cell levels is required, a blood transfusion may be necessary.
Treating Underlying Conditions
When anaemia is secondary to chronic diseases or medical conditions, such as kidney disease or inflammatory disorders, addressing the underlying condition is essential to improve red blood cell production.
Prevention of Anaemia
Taking preventive measures can reduce the risk of developing anaemia:
Balanced Diet with Iron-Rich Foods
A diet rich in iron, vitamin B12, and folate can help maintain adequate levels of these essential nutrients.
Management of Chronic Diseases
Proper management of chronic medical conditions, such as kidney disease or inflammatory disorders, can prevent anaemia associated with these conditions.
Adequate Iron Intake during Pregnancy
Pregnant women should ensure they get adequate iron intake through diet or supplements as prescribed by their healthcare provider.
Home Care for Mild Anaemia
Individuals with mild anaemia may consider the following home care measures:
Consuming iron-rich foods, such as leafy greens, lean meats, nuts, and fortified cereals, can support healthy red blood cell production.
Proper Use of Supplements
If prescribed iron or vitamin supplements, follow the healthcare provider’s instructions regarding dosage and timing.
Healthy Lifestyle Habits
Getting enough rest, engaging in regular physical activity, and managing stress can contribute to overall well-being and support the body’s natural healing processes.
When to Seek Medical Advice
It is essential to seek medical advice if you experience symptoms of anaemia or if you are at risk due to underlying medical conditions. Prompt diagnosis and treatment can help manage the condition effectively and prevent complications.
Anaemia is a prevalent condition that can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. Understanding its risk factors, causes, diagnosis, treatment options, and preventive measures can empower individuals to take proactive steps in preventing and managing this condition effectively. If you suspect anaemia or fall into high-risk categories, consult a healthcare professional for appropriate evaluation and care. Early diagnosis and intervention can make a significant difference in managing anaemia and improving overall health.