By Apollo 24|7, Published on- 08 December 2022 & Updated on - 27 February 2024

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  • Symptoms: Pale skin, fatigue, shortness of breath, cold hands, chest pain, light-headedness, fast heart rate, brittle nails, headache, dizziness, irregular or inconsistent heartbeats, yellowish skin, weakness, pallor, feeling cold, irritability, restless legs, lethargy, pale gums, enlarged lymph nodes, unusual craving, jaundice, tongue inflammation, enlarged liver

  • Causes: Imbalance in red blood cell (RBC) production, decreased RBC generation, lead exposure, hypothyroidism, kidney disease, destruction of RBCs, excess bleeding

  • Risk Factors: Genetic history, heavy alcohol consumption, over 65 years of age, chronic disease like cancer, regular exposure to toxic substances

  • Prevalence: Anaemia affects approximately 40% of all children aged 6-59 months, 37% of pregnant women, and 30% of women aged 15-49 years. 

  • Severity: Mild to severe

  • Which doctor to consult: Haematologist

  • Overview

    Anaemia is a health problem that is more prevalent in pregnant women and young children. However, anyone with a red blood cell production malfunction can have this disorder. In simple terms, a person with anaemia does not have adequate oxygen-rich blood.

    Red blood cells (RBCs) are essential components that carry oxygen from the lungs and transfer it to other body parts. In addition, these cells take carbon dioxide back to the lungs to exhale it out of the system. Individuals suffering from anaemia lack normal production of healthy RBCs. As a result, specific symptoms come into the picture.

    People with anaemia experience fatigue, tiredness, and shortness of breath. This health condition can sometimes arise due to the destruction of red blood cells. With several risk factors, anaemia can result from various causes. Hence, determining the root cause becomes vital for proper treatment.

    Generally, anaemia can be temporary or last for a long duration. Also, the severity depends on the disease's origin and the immune system's state. In most cases, anaemia can result due to multiple causes. So, the treatment for this condition differs from person to person.

    Types of Anaemia:

    There are several types of anaemia, each with distinct symptoms. A few common types of anaemia are:
    Iron deficiency anaemia
    Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia
    Aplastic anaemia
    hemolytic anemia
    Iron deficiency anaemia

    Iron deficiency anaemia:  

    The most common type of anaemia, occurs when the body produces insufficient red blood cells due to a lack of iron. It could develop as a result of:

    A diet low in iron, heavy menstruation, frequent blood donations, endurance training, digestive conditions like Crohn's disease, and medications like ibuprofen can irritate the gut lining. It can cause symptoms like fatigue, lightheadedness, and cold extremities.

    Vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia:
    Vitamin B12 is required for the production of RBC. If people do not consume or absorb enough B12, their red blood cell count may be low. Some symptoms are:
    Difficulty walking;
    Confusion and forgetfulness;
    Vision problems;
    Glossitis refers to a smooth, red tongue.

    Aplastic anaemia:

    It is a rare blood condition in which the bone marrow fails to produce enough new red blood cells. It is usually the result of an autoimmune disease that damages stem cells. This happens despite having normal iron levels.
    It can cause symptoms like fatigue;
    Frequent infections;
    Skin rashes;
    Bruises easily.

    Hemolytic anaemia:

    It occurs when RBCs are destroyed faster than the body can replace them. This can be caused by various conditions, including autoimmune diseases, infections, bone marrow problems, and inherited disorders like sickle cell disease and thalassemia. Hemolytic anaemia can cause the following symptoms: Dizziness and weakness, jaundice, dark urine, fever, and abdominal pain.


    Anaemia occurs when the blood does not contain enough haemoglobin or red blood cells.
    This may occur if the body does not produce sufficient haemoglobin or red blood cells; bleeding results in losing red blood cells and haemoglobin faster than they can be replaced; the body destroys red blood cells and the haemoglobin they contain.

    Risk factors:

    These factors can increase the risk of anaemia.

    • A diet low in certain vitamins and minerals: Anaemia is more likely if you don't consume enough iron, vitamin B-12, and folate.

    • Small intestinal problems: A condition affecting how the small intestine absorbs nutrients raises the risk of anemia. Examples include Crohn's disease and celiac disease.

    • Menstrual periods: In general, having heavy periods increases the risk of anaemia. Having periods results in the loss of red blood cells.

    • Pregnancy: Pregnant women who do not take a multivitamin containing folic acid and iron are at a higher risk of anaemia.

    • Chronic conditions are those that exist on an ongoing basis: Cancer, kidney failure, diabetes, or other chronic conditions all increase the risk of anemia from chronic diseases. Slow, chronic blood loss from an ulcer or other source within the body can deplete the body's iron reserves, resulting in iron deficiency anaemia.

    • The family history: Having a family member with a type of anaemia that is passed down through generations, known as inherited, can increase the risk of inherited anaemias like sickle cell anaemia.

    • Additional factors: A history of certain infections, blood diseases, or autoimmune conditions increases the risk of developing anemia. Drinking too much alcohol, being exposed to toxic chemicals, and taking certain medications can all have an effect on the production of red blood cells, causing anaemia.

    • Age: People over the age of 65 are more likely to develop anaemia.


    • Problems with the heart

    Red blood cells carry oxygen in the bloodstream. In anaemic patients, the lack of these cells eventually lowers the oxygen levels. Resultantly, the heart needs to work hard to compensate for the decrease of cells rich in haemoglobin. This increase in the load can strain the heart, thereby leading to conditions like cardiac hypertrophy, murmurs, and heart failure.

    • Pregnancy issues

    There is a direct correlation between menstrual periods and anaemia. Also, during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, women can experience this condition. Left untreated, severe anaemia can cause problems like the birth of an underweight baby. In some cases, this condition can lead to preterm birth. Women with anaemia can also experience high blood loss during labour. The baby can also carry this disorder during infancy.

    • Deterioration of the immune system

    The role of iron in maintaining a healthy body is crucial. During anaemia, the levels of this element drop down, causing a compromised immune system. As a result, patients can become more prone to infections.

    • Complications in normal body development

    Infants with anaemia face severe challenges in the proper development of their physical facets. Low iron levels in the blood can delay motor and cognitive development. In addition, anaemia can affect brain development in young children.

    • Death

    Some forms of this medical condition can be highly fatal. For instance, sickle cell anaemia can be life-threatening. 
    Due to several complexities and the fatal nature of the risks, it becomes vital to prevent or treat this health disorder without delay.


    Many types of anaemia cannot be prevented. However, eating a healthy diet may help prevent iron and vitamin deficiency anaemias. A healthy diet contains:
    Iron: Iron-rich foods include beef and other meats, legumes, iron-fortified cereals, dark green leafy vegetables, and dried fruit.
    Folate: Fruits and fruit juices, dark green leafy vegetables, green peas, kidney beans, peanuts, and enriched grain products such as bread, cereal, pasta, and rice contain this nutrient, as does its synthetic form, folic acid.

    Vitamin B12: Vitamin B-12-rich foods include meat, dairy products, fortified cereals, and soy products.
    Vitamin C: Vitamin C-rich foods include citrus fruits and juices, peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, melons, and strawberries. These also help the body absorb iron.
    If you are concerned about getting enough vitamins and minerals from food, consult your doctor about taking a multivitamin.

    When To Consult a doctor?

    Generally, evaluating the symptoms becomes vital to decide on the requirement for an expert diagnosis. Here are the conditions that indicate a visit to the doctor without any delay:

    • On Symptoms

    Signs like extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, weakness, and dizziness are common indicators of anaemia. In addition, one must identify heart palpitations and chest pain. These symptoms clearly denote the need to visit a doctor.

    • Physical Signs

    Brittle nails, extreme hair loss, yellowish or pale skin, and irregular heartbeats can indicate a lack of iron or red blood cells. Also, cancer or kidney disease patients are more prone to develop anaemia. In such cases, visiting the physician without any delay is extremely vital.

    Suffering from fatigue due to known reasons should not be alarming. However, a low haemoglobin count can indicate the onset or presence of this illness. So, it is crucial to undergo a proper diagnosis and consult a doctor after noticing more than one symptom or physical alteration.


    The common way to diagnose anaemia is by evaluating a patient’s family and medical history. After this initial step, a physician can recommend the following tests:

    • Complete Blood Count (CBC)

    The blood cell count in the patient’s body is analysed in this diagnosis. For people with anaemia, the RBC count is the most vital aspect. A CBC panel will also evaluate other parameters like platelets.

    • Iron Levels

    Anaemia is related to the iron values in the bloodstream. An anaemic person has low iron levels in the blood. So, a serum test determining the iron level in the blood becomes essential to detect potential deficiency.

    • Peripheral Blood Smear

    This diagnosis aims to analyse the RBCs’ shape under a microscope. The lab technician observes the red blood cells' shape, size, and colour for any abnormality.

    Doctors can sometimes require an in-depth analysis of the bone marrow sample. For this purpose, it can be necessary to undergo an additional medical assessment.

    Understanding that the RBC levels differ based on gender and age is crucial. The normal RBC range for male adults lies between 4.35 to 5.65 million/mL of blood. On the other hand, the normal range for female adults is 3.90 to 5.10 million/mL of blood.


    Anaemia can be caused by:

    • Poor diet

    • Associated health problems

    So, the treatment for this medical condition will vary according to the root cause. Generally, treating anaemia due to a lack of nutrients is simple. This treatment requires the proper intake of iron and foods rich in vitamin B12.
    However, the anaemia treatment plan for other diseases requires personalised diagnosis and aftercare. Here are some of the common methods to treat this health disorder:

    • Home Care

    Intake of nutritional diet and iron supplements is the most well-known home treatment plan. If the body has difficulty in absorbing vitamin B12 and folate, a physician can recommend injections and a proper domestic diet plan.

    • Medication

    Vitamin B supplements, ferrous sulphate, folic acid, and erythropoiesis-stimulating agents are popular drug options to increase the production of red blood cells. The frequency, intensity, and type of medication varies from person to person.

    • Surgical Treatment

    As anaemia is a blood-related disease, the necessity of physical surgery is rare. However, blood transfusion, bone marrow transplantation, and spleen removal can become necessary for severe forms of anaemia. For instance, severe types of thalassemia can require bone marrow stem cell transplant. Hence, the need for surgical treatment arises primarily for severe cases.

    • Alternative Management

    For most patients, proper nutrition, supplements, and treatment of underlying diseases are forms of alternative management. A good example is sickle cell anaemia. To treat this condition, doctors can use hydroxyurea, a cancer drug. In addition, some patients might need pain relievers and intravenous (IV) fluids.

    Boosting red blood cell production is the most prominent treatment for anaemia. Since almost 50% of all anaemic cases result from iron deficiency, home care and medication are popular treatment options.

    Additional Information

    People with a high risk of developing anaemia should have extra knowledge about this disease. This section explains the common types of this health condition.

    Types Of Anaemia

    Anaemia is categorised into four types based on its cause.

    1. Vitamin Deficiency Anaemia
    As the name suggests, this condition arises due to abnormal amounts of certain organic compounds. The decrease in RBCs is a result of lower counts of the following molecules:

    • Folate

    • Vitamin B12

    Fatigue, dizziness, muscle weakness, and weight loss are common symptoms of this condition. Poor diet, intestinal issues, and gastric surgeries can cause this disease.

    To prevent vitamin deficiency anaemia, one can consume a healthy diet comprising some or all of the following foods:

    • Eggs

    • Milk

    • Breakfast cereals

    • Chicken

    • Fish

    • Broccoli

    • Strawberries

    So, preventing this condition can be comparatively easy.

    2. Sickle Cell Anaemia

    This is an inherited condition that impacts the shape of RBCs. In this form of anaemia, the RBCs transform into a crescent moon shape.

    The common symptoms of this condition are pain crises, inflammation of the limbs, vision problems, and immature physical growth.

    Generally, this fatal disease can develop at a tender age of six months. It is thus vital to identify the signs and consult the doctor without delay. Early treatment can prevent further complications due to sickle cell anaemia.

    3. Aplastic Anaemia

    This form results from a halt in the production of new blood cells. Aplastic anaemia can lead to the following complications:

    • Extreme fatigue

    • Uncontrolled bleeding

    • Weakened immune system

    Some common symptoms of this form are skin rashes, pale colour of the skin, irregular heart rate, shortness of breath, and headache. Exposure to toxic chemicals, blood diseases, chemotherapy, and autoimmune disorders are some of the risk factors for this medical disorder.

    Generally, medication, stem cell transplants, and blood transfusions are the only treatment options for this type of anaemia.

    4. Thalassemia

    The presence of low haemoglobin in the blood is a distinguishing factor in this form of anaemia. Common signs of thalassemia include abdominal swelling, fatigue, slow physical development, and dark urine.

    In most cases, thalassemia is an inherited disorder. It is a result of DNA mutation. In severe forms, this condition can cause the following complications:

    • Enlarged spleen

    • Deformities in bones

    • Abnormal heart rhythms

    Mild cases of thalassemia do not require complex treatment. In such cases, consuming a well-balanced diet can prove effective. However, severe cases can need blood transfusions.


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Frequently Asked Questions

Can anaemia lead to an increase in weight?

Yes, anaemia can cause weight gain. The main reason behind this is the underactive thyroid gland due to low iron levels in the bloodstream.People with anaemia experience fatigue, leading to a lack of mobility and movement. This indirect impact can also lead to a sedentary lifestyle and an increase in weight.

The lack of iron or vitamin B12 can cause specific psychological issues in a person. This medical condition can lead to anxiety, depression, and sleep disorder.Proper management and diagnosis of this health disorder thus become highly crucial. Consequently, patients can prevent further physical and emotional complications.

Conditions like viral hepatitis, erythema, Crohn's disease, and stroke are some of the disorders with similar signs to anaemia.So, consulting a doctor and undergoing relevant medical tests are the best options to detect the illness. Always choose a reliable pathology lab to increase the accuracy of test results.

If one has vitamin deficiency anaemia, eating foods like red meat, beans, and peas can prove beneficial. In addition, items like dry fruits, dark green leafy vegetables, and seafood can supply the necessary vitamins and minerals.

In most cases, people with anaemia due to iron deficiency can recover within three months. However, the doctor can suggest a prolonged intake of supplements and medications to keep the complications at bay.Conditions like sickle cell anaemia are challenging to treat. So, the recovery period of this disease depends on the type and severity.