Anaemia is defined as a condition wherein the number of healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin is below the specified normal levels. Red blood cells perform the essential function of providing oxygen to the various tissues of the body. Thus, a decreased number of RBCs or their component hemoglobin affects the oxygen supply to the body organs resulting in various complaints.
The level of hemoglobin in males should be above 13.5gms/dL while in females, it should be above 12gms/dL. Lower levels indicate anaemia. In females, the occasional dip is observed physiologically during blood loss as in menstruation or post-delivery. The severity of anaemia depends on the levels of hemoglobin present in the blood.
Prevalence:
Though there are many different types of anemia iron deficiency anaemia is the most prevalent, especially among females or children.
Patients with prolonged illnesses are more prone to develop deficiency anaemia. Similarly, older people are at higher risk of developing anaemia owing to their low immunity and decreasing appetite.
Causes:
Low levels of RBCs or hemoglobin could be due to three factors:
  • Low production of healthy cells by the body
  • Destruction of healthy cells by the body
  • Excessive blood loss
The main conditions that may result in anaemia are: 
  • Hereditary Anaemia such as Thalassemia, sickle cell anaemia
  • Anaemia due to deficiency of iron, vitamin B12, folates etc.
  • Excessive blood loss during menstruation, operative surgeries, delivery etc.
  • Increased demands during pregnancy, lactation.
  • Bone marrow diseases: As bone marrow is the main seat for production of RBCs, any disease of the marrow may hamper the red cell production.
  • Chronic or gastrointestinal diseases such as gastritis, Crohn’s disease, cancer, HIV etc.
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Use of certain drugs
Signs and Symptoms:
  • Fatigue
  • Pale skin
  • Pale eyes
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Palpitations
  • Hair loss
  • Brittle nails

Prevention:

  • A balanced diet rich in iron, folic acid, vitamins, and minerals helps in preventing anaemia.
  • Females of child-bearing age should take additional care to meet the excess physiological demands so as to deliver a healthy baby.
  • Avoid alcohol, recreational drugs etc.

Diagnosis:

A simple blood test can detect the level of haemoglobin in the body and helps in determining the type and severity of the disease. Very rarely, a bone marrow test may also be conducted.

Treatment:

Supplements of iron, folic acid, Vitamin B12 etc. are usually, sufficient to treat mild to moderate anaemia. In severe cases, blood transfusions or treatment of the underlying disease may be required.

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