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Anemia: present or absent?

JESSICA MAWU-KOENYA BANSAH
JESSICA MAWU-KOENYA BANSAH

Anaemia is the most common condition among humans. Many people have it but are unaware. The symptoms of anaemia are difficult to detect hence a lot of people with this condition are oblivious of their situation. It is a condition that may result in several complications such as heart problems, premature birth or even death.

Thus, in this article, we will inform and educate you on anaemia to help you and others detect this when you are experiencing it.

Anaemia

Blood is transported through channels called blood vessels to other parts of the body. Blood is needed to transport oxygen and other nutrients your body makes from one region to another. If you have anaemia, your blood will not send enough oxygen to the rest of your body.

Anaemia is caused by a deficiency in iron: Iron is needed to make haemoglobin which is a component of your red blood cells.

As you may have heard, haemoglobin is an iron-rich protein responsible for carrying oxygen to the rest of your body. It is also the pigment in blood that makes blood look red instead of any other colour. Iron comes together to haemoglobin, which helps to get the red blood cell.

A reduction in red blood cells means a reduction in iron and vice versa. This will consequently lead to inadequate oxygen to other parts of the body which will result in anaemia.

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Causes of anaemia

Various health conditions can result in low red blood cells but the three main reasons are:

1.      Blood loss

Blood contains red blood cells. If a person gets injured and loses blood in any form, it means the number of red blood cells will reduce. When this happens, oxygen which is transported by these red blood cells will automatically reduce. This may be temporary or chronic. It can also occur in this manner- when the body loses blood, it draws water from other parts of the body(e.g. tissues) beyond the bloodstream to help keep the blood vessels full. This additional water dilutes the blood, reducing the red blood cell count.

2.      Lack of red blood cell production

It is apparent that without red blood cells, there will be no oxygen. Also, without haemoglobin, red blood cells cannot be made. Finally, without iron, haemoglobin cannot be made. The most common example is taking foods that lack iron, folic acid or vitamins B12.

3.      High rates of red blood cell destruction.

Any condition that destroys red blood cells at a rate faster than they’re made can cause anaemia. Examples include surgery, accidents, genetic disorders, endometriosis, etc.

Symptoms of anaemia

1.     Fatigue

This is the most common symptom of anaemia. This is due to the inadequate blood supply to the rest of your body. Have you realized that whenever you run unexpectedly, you feel tired and may even begin to pant but after you rest, you are able to catch your breath? This is because your body uses up oxygen quickly. After resting and calming down, you feel better because oxygen circulation is returned to normal. In people with anaemia, they don’t have to run first, oxygen is being depleted in their body, hence they get tired so easily. This is how serious this condition can be. Other symptoms include:

2.      Irregular or fast heartbeat- you realized that your heart may begin beating fast even though you haven’t experienced any situation that will make you tired, run or scared.

3.      Shortness of breath- if oxygen is insufficient in your body, your body acts in this manner to inform you about it.

4.      Pale skin- in most communities, that is the most common way of detecting anaemia.

5.      Headaches

6.      Dizzy or light-headedness

7.      Trouble concentrating.

As usual, having one symptom does not necessarily mean that you present with anaemia. Usually, a combination of two or more is the best way to detect anaemia. At the hospital, the doctor may instruct you to take a quick blood test to check your haemoglobin levels to be certain before giving prescriptions.

Risk factors for Anemia

Conditions that will lead to or increase a person’s chance of getting anaemia include:

1.      Heavy menstrual flow- this results because iron which is needed to produce red blood cells becomes inadequate. Also, heavy menstrual bleeding can happen and result in too much blood loss.

2.      Pregnancy- during pregnancy, your body works two times to feed the foetus and the mother. Hence, pregnant women are expected to take folic acid to boost the production of red blood cells(RBCs) which will ensure sufficient oxygen for both the mother and the child.

3.      G6PD( a metabolic disorder)- G6PD is an enzyme responsible for keeping red blood cells healthy so they can function properly and live a normal life span. Without enough of it, red blood cells break down prematurely. If a person has this disorder, the red blood cells will die early and the body may not replace them in time causing anaemia.

4.      A diet that does not have enough iron, folic acid or vitamin B12. These are needed to create red blood cells so a lack of these nutrients will directly affect their production.

5.      Blood disorders: sickle cell anaemia, thalassemia or cancer- this results in low production of red blood cells consequently leading to anaemia.

6.      Aplastic anaemia: a condition that can be inherited or acquired. It occurs when your bone marrow (the region where red blood cell is manufactured) becomes damaged, and your body, therefore, stops producing new blood cells. It can be sudden or get worse over time.

7.      Ulcers- results in a loss of blood.

8.      Colon cancers- leads to blood loss.

9.      Inherited disorder.

Treatment of anaemia

There are several remedies for anaemia but they all aim to increase the number of RBCs, which, in turn, increases the amount of oxygen in the blood.

1.      Anemia caused by a deficiency in iron will be treated by changes in dietary intake.

· Foods rich in iron include;

iron-fortified cereals and bread, leafy green vegetables- spinach, lettuce, beans, brown rice, white or red meats, nuts and seeds, fish, eggs, dried fruits, including apricots, raisins, and prunes

· foods rich in folic acid include;

beef liver, lentils, spinach, eggs

· foods rich in vitamin B12 include;

fish, meat, poultry, eggs, other dairy products.

These nutrients can come in injections or pills which can be taken easily.

2. If anaemia is caused by bleeding or loss of blood, a blood transfusion will be done immediately.

3. For severe forms of anaemia, the doctor will either prescribe immunosuppressant, suggest chemotherapy or a bone marrow transplant depending on the underlying cause.

In a nutshell

Anaemia is one of the most common conditions. It may be temporary or chronic. many people are walking around having anaemia. The mild symptoms are hard to detect but we have listed what you should look out for. Changes in diet can make a difference. If symptoms get worse, always consult a doctor.

References

  1. Healthline. What you need to know about Anemia. Available at https://www.healthline.com/health/anemia#causes
  2. Medical news today. Anaemia. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/158800#_noHeaderPrefixedContent.

JESSICA MAWU-KOENYA BANSAH

A young lady who is excited to influence the society and world with the knowledge she has acquired.