Red blood cells carry oxygen from lungs to all the tissues in our body. Anemia is caused when there is a decrease in the amount or function of red cells in the blood. India has one of the highest rates of anemia in the world. As per National Family and Health Survey 3 in 2005/2006 about 78.9% of the children aged 6-35 months and 56.9% of women aged 15-49 are anemic (1). In this article we will discuss basic information about anemia.
Anemia can be a manifestation of various diseases. Based on the clinical history your doctor will order tests to identify the cause of anemia. Here are some of the most common causes of Anemia in Indian population (not all listed) (2).
• Poor dietary intake of Iron.
• Poor bioavailability of Iron taken (Iron in vegetables is poorly absorbed).
• Loss in bowels from Hook worm infestation
• Menstrual loss
• Pregnancy with poor supplementation of iron
• Chronic kidney disease caused by poor control of chronic diseases such as Diabetes and Hypertension.
As described above in patients with anemia there is decreased oxygen supply to various organs leading to a wide variety of symptoms. Some of the common symptoms are (3)
• Generalized weakness or fatigue
• Shortness of breath with minimal activity
• Palpitations (feeling of heart racing)
• Light headedness or dizziness
• Chest pains
• Change in the color of the skin ( people become pale)
• Brittle nails (in iron deficiency anemia)
• Cold extremities
When to call a doctor?
Consult your doctor if you notice:
- Persistent fatigue
- Pale skin
- Rapid heart rate
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Poor dietary intake
Red cells have hemoglobin (Iron rich protein) which helps carry oxygen. Hemoglobin can be checked to diagnose and estimate the degree of anemia. In patients with iron deficiency iron levels and various other iron binding protein levels can be measured to diagnose deficiency.
As anemia can be a manifestation of wide range of diseases, many people are at risk. In India iron deficiency is the most common cause of anemia. Here are some of the people who are at risk for anemia:
• Children 6-36 months (from decreased intake)
• Menstruating women (from blood loss)
• Pregnant women (increased requirement)
• People infected with hook worm (slow loss of blood in bowels)
• People with kidney problems
Treatment for anemia can range from simple iron pills to blood transfusion depending on the cause. Doctors do tests to identify the cause of anemia before treatment. In general Anemia is caused due to:
- Either decreased production of red cells
- Increased destruction of red cells
- Loss of blood (and therefore red cells)
- Combination of above.
- Allergy and Immunology
- Blood Disorders.
- Cardiac Disorders
- Digestive Disorders
- ENT Disorders
- Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders
- Eye Disorders
- General Medicine
- Genetic Disorders
- Genitourinary disorders
- Gynaecological conditions
- Infectious disorders
- Neoplasms (cancer)
- Nervous system disorders
- Pregnancy & child birth
- Respiratory disorders
- Skin and subcutaneous disorders