Anaemia Causes, Symptoms, Types and Treatment

Anaemia is a condition in which the number of red blood cells or their oxygen-carrying capacity is insufficient to meet physiologic needs, which vary by age, sex, altitude, smoking, and pregnancy status. Iron deficiency is thought to be the most common cause of anaemia globally, although other conditions, such as folate, vitamin B12 and vitamin A deficiencies, chronic inflammation, parasitic infections and inherited disorders can all cause anaemia. Pregnant women and children are particularly vulnerable.


  • Pregnancy – It is very common for women to develop iron deficiency during pregnancy. This is because your body needs extra iron to ensure your baby has sufficient blood supply and receives necessary oxygen & nutrients. Some pregnant women require an iron supplement and others may need to increase the amount of iron in their diet.
  • Gastrointestinal blood loss – Your gastrointestinal tract is the part of your body responsible for digesting food. It contains the stomach and intestines. Bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract is the most common cause of iron deficiency anaemia in men, and in women who have been through the menopause. Most people with gastrointestinal bleeding don’t notice any obvious blood in their stools and don’t experience any changes in their bowel habits.
  • Monthly periods – In women of reproductive age, periods are the most common cause of iron deficiency anaemia. Usually, women with heavy periods develop iron deficiency anaemia. If you have heavy bleeding over several consecutive menstrual cycles, it is known as menorrhagia.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease – A condition that causes inflammation in the digestive system, such as Cohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
  • Blood donation – Donating a large amount of blood may lead to anaemia
  • Trauma – A serious accident, such as a car crash, may cause you to lose a lot of blood.
  • Nosebleeds – If you have lot of nosebleeds, this may lead to anaemia.

Sign & Symptoms:

  • Easy fatigue and loss of energy
  • Unusually rapid heartbeat, particularly with exercise
  • Shortness of breath & headache, particularly with exercise
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dizziness
  • Pale Skin
  • Leg Cramps
  • Insomnia

Types of Anemia:

The most common types of anaemia are:

  • Iron Deficiency Anaemia
  • Thalassaemia
  • Aplastic Anaemia
  • Haemolytic Anaemia
  • Sickle cell Anaemia
  • Pernicious Anaemia
  • Fanconi Anaemia

Iron Deficiency Anaemia – The most common form of anaemia is iron deficiency anaemia which is usually due to chronic blood loss caused by excessive menstruation. Increased demands for iron, such as foetal growth in pregnancy, and children undergoing rapid growth spurts in infancy & adolescence, can also cause iron deficiency anaemia. This condition is treated with iron supplementation as well as the treatment of the underlying cause of the iron deficiency.

Aplastic Anaemia – Aplastic anaemia is a blood disorder in which the body’s bone marrow doesn’t make enough new blood cells. This may result in a number of health problems including arrhythmias, an enlarged heart, infections and bleeding. Aplastic anaemia is a rare but serious condition. It can develop suddenly or slowly and tends to worsen with time, unless the cause is found & treated.

Haemolytic Anaemia – Haemolytic anaemia is a condition in which red blood cells are destroyed and removed from the bloodstream before their normal lifespan is up. A number of diseases, conditions and factors can cause the body to destroy its red blood cells. Haemolytic anaemia can lead to various health problems such as fatigue, pain, arrhythmias, an enlarged heart and heart failure.

Thalassaemia – Thalassaemias are inherited blood disorders which cause the body to make fewer healthy red blood cells and less haemoglobin (an iron-rich protein in red blood cells).The two major types of thalassaemia are alpha- and beta thalassaemia. The most severe form of alpha thalassaemia is known as alpha thalassaemia major or hydrops fetalis, while the severe form of beta thalassaemia is known as thalassaemia major or Cooley’s anaemia. Thalassaemias affect both males and females and occur most often in people of Italian, Greek, Middle Eastern, Asian, and African descent. Severe forms are usually diagnosed in early childhood and are lifelong conditions.

Sickle Cell Anaemia – Sickle cell anaemia is a serious disease in which the body makes sickle-shaped (“C”-shaped) red blood cells rather than the Normal red blood cells which are disk-shaped & move easily through your blood vessels. Red blood cells contain the protein hemoglobin. Sickle cells contain abnormal haemoglobin that causes the cells to have a sickle shape, which don’t move easily through the blood vessels – they are stiff, sticky, tend to form clumps and get stuck in the blood vessels. The clumps of sickle cells block blood flow in the blood vessels leading to the limbs and organs. Blocked blood vessels can cause pain, serious infections, and organ damage. In sickle cell anaemia, a lower-than-normal number of red blood cells occurs because sickle cells don’t last very long. Sickle cells usually get damaged after about 10 to 20 days and the body can’t reproduce red blood cells fast enough to replace the finishing ones, which causes anaemia.

Pernicious Anaemia – Pernicious anaemia is a condition in which the body can’t make enough healthy red blood cells because it doesn’t have enough Vitamin B12. People who have pernicious anaemia can’t absorb enough vitamin B12 due to a lack of intrinsic factor. However, other conditions and factors can also cause vitamin B12 deficiency.

Fanconi Anaemia – Fanconi anaemia, or FA, is a rare, inherited blood disorder that leads to bone marrow failure. FA is a type of aplastic anaemia that prevents your bone marrow from making enough new blood cells for your body to work normally. FA can also cause your bone marrow to make many abnormal blood cells. This can lead to serious health problems, such as leukemia. FA is a blood disorder, but it can also affect many of the body’s organs, tissues, and systems. Children who inherit FA are at higher risk of being born with birth defects, and people who have FA are at higher risk of serious health problems.

Prevention & Treatment: 

  • Eat a balanced healthy diet rich in iron.
  • Reduce tea and coffee intake as they make it harder for your body to absorb iron.
  • Increase vitamin C intake as it may help iron absorption.
  • Avoiding suspect medications, treating related infections.
  • Bone marrow transplantation may be considered in some cases.
  • Folic acid deficiency anemia is treated with folic acid supplements.
  • Steroids or gamma globulin can help suppress your immune system’s attack.

Thankfully Anaemia is something Doctors are used to deal with & if you think you may be anaemic, don’t just top up with an iron supplement, you need a blood test. If you are anaemic, you need a discussion with your Doctor to determine the cause.