Blood is made up of a fluid called plasma which contains:

  • Red blood cells - which transport oxygen.
  • White blood cells - which defend the body from infection.
  • Platelets - which help the blood to clot .
  • Proteins - and other chemicals that have various functions.
  • Red blood cells are made in the bone marrow. A constant new supply of red blood cells is needed to replace old cells that break down and are removed by the body. Red blood cells contain a chemical called haemoglobin. Haemoglobin binds to oxygen and takes oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body.

What is anaemia?
  1. You have fewer red blood cells than normal, OR
  2. You have less hemoglobin than normal in each red blood cell
What are the symptoms of anaemia?

These include: tiredness, lethargy, feeling faint, and becoming easily breathless.

Less common symptoms include: headaches, palpitations, altered taste, and ringing in the ears (tinnitus).

You may look pale.

What are the causes of anemia?
  • Lack of iron is the most common cause of anemia in the world. This is called iron deficiency anaemia.
  • Lack of certain vitamins such as folic acid and vitamin B12.
  • Red blood cell problems such as thalassaemia, sickle cell anaemia and the haemolytic anaemias. In these conditions the red cells are fragile and break easily in the bloodstream.
  • Bone marrow problems and leukaemia are uncommon, but can cause anaemia.

A simple blood test can measure the amount of haemoglobin in your blood and count the number of red blood cells per millilitre (ml).

Sometimes the underlying cause is obvious. For example, anaemia is common in pregnancy and in women who have heavy menstrual periods. In these situations, no further tests may be needed and treatment with iron tablets may be advised.

The treatment of anaemia depends on the underlying cause. For many people this may simply be iron tablets. For others it may be a course of vitamins or other more complex treatments

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