HomeDiseasesAnaemiaAnaemia symptoms

Anaemia symptoms

Haemoglobin, a protein found in your red blood cells (RBCs), is necessary for the transport of oxygen from your lungs to the rest of the body. However, when the number of RBCs decreases, the blood cannot carry a sufficient supply of oxygen. This insufficient availability of oxygen in the cells and tissues causes anaemia symptoms including tiredness, dizziness, and dyspnoea (shortness of breath). The ideal haemoglobin concentration necessary to meet a person’s physiologic needs differs according to the gender, age, smoking habits, and pregnancy status. Although poor nutrition, particularly iron deficiency, and inadequacies of vitamin B12 and folate are the potential causes, hemoglobinopathies and infections such as tuberculosis, HIV, and parasitic infections are also among the most common causes of anaemia.

Anaemia is a major global public health concern that tends to affect children and pregnant women.

Points to keep in mind about anaemia are:

  • Specific types of anaemia are genetically transmitted, and infants may be born with it.
  • The blood loss during periods and increased blood supply requirements during pregnancy put women at s risk of iron deficiency anaemia.
  • Anaemia is more common in the elderly than in young people due to their increased risk of kidney disease and other chronic illnesses.

There are numerous types of anaemia, and all have distinct causes and treatments. Some forms, such as the mild anaemia that occurs during pregnancy, are not a major concern. However, some types of anaemia may indicate a serious underlying medical issue.

Anaemia signs and symptoms

Symptoms differ based on the severity of your anaemia and how quickly it develops. Some individuals who have mild anaemia, especially the one that evolves gradually, have little or no symptoms at all. Other people may only experience symptoms when they are physically active or in a state of exertion. More severe anaemia can cause clinical symptoms even when individuals are resting. When mild or severe anaemia evolves rapidly, for instance when a blood vessel ruptures, symptoms further become severe.

The following symptoms may appear first:

  • Feeling tired or weak more frequently than usual or when exercising
  • Headaches
  • Concentration or thinking difficulties
  • Irritability
  • Appetite loss
  • Hand and foot numbness and tingling

If the anaemia worsens, the following symptoms may occur:

  • Shortness of breath during light activity or even when at rest
  • Feeling dizzy on standing up
  • Craving to consume non-food things or ice (Pica syndrome)
  • Yellowish or pale skin
  • Tongue inflammation
  • Ulcers of the mouth
  • Menstrual bleeding that is excessive or abnormal in women
  • Chest pain
  • Painful lower leg cramps when you exercise

A few symptoms may also provide information about the source of anaemia. Anaemia caused by bleeding, for example, is indicated by blood in the stool or urine, black-tarry stools, or bleeding when you cough. Additionally, if you see jaundice (a pale-yellow tinge to the skin or to the whites of the eyes) or dark urine, then your anaemia may be caused by RBC destruction. A prickling or burning sensation in the feet or hands could indicate a deficiency of vitamin B12.

Anaemia in the elderly

Many anaemia-causing disorders, such as cancer, are highly common in older people. These disorders also include hematologic malignancies (blood cancers) such as multiple myeloma and myelodysplastic syndrome. As a result, many elderly people develop anaemia. One of the most common causes of anaemia in older people is chronic disease anaemia (caused by cancer, chronic inflammation, or infection) and iron-deficiency anaemia (caused by abnormal bleeding). Anaemia is not a normal part of aging, and when it is discovered, the underlying cause must always be determined.

Anaemia symptoms essentially remain the same irrespective of age. Furthermore, even when anaemia is mild, elderly people are more inclined than younger people to become depressed, confused, agitated, or listless. They might also become jittery and find it difficult to walk. These issues can make it difficult to live independently. Some elderly people with mild anaemia, on the other hand, show no symptoms at all, especially when anaemia develops slowly, as it commonly does.

Anaemia resulting from a deficiency of vitamin B12 may be misdiagnosed as dementia in older people because it affects mental function.

Symptoms differ based on the severity of your anaemia and how quickly it develops. Some individuals who have mild anaemia, especially the one that evolves gradually, have little or no symptoms at all. Other people may only experience symptoms when they are physically active or in a state of exertion. More severe anaemia can cause clinical symptoms even when individuals are resting. When mild or severe anaemia evolves rapidly, for instance when a blood vessel ruptures, symptoms further become severe.

The following symptoms may appear first:

  • Feeling tired or weak more frequently than usual or when exercising
  • Headaches
  • Concentration or thinking difficulties
  • Irritability
  • Appetite loss
  • Hand and foot numbness and tingling

If the anaemia worsens, the following symptoms may occur:

  • Shortness of breath during light activity or even when at rest
  • Feeling dizzy on standing up
  • Craving to consume non-food things or ice (Pica syndrome)
  • Yellowish or pale skin
  • Tongue inflammation
  • Ulcers of the mouth
  • Menstrual bleeding that is excessive or abnormal in women
  • Chest pain
  • Painful lower leg cramps when you exercise

A few symptoms may also provide information about the source of anaemia. Anaemia caused by bleeding, for example, is indicated by blood in the stool or urine, black-tarry stools, or bleeding when you cough. Additionally, if you see jaundice (a pale-yellow tinge to the skin or to the whites of the eyes) or dark urine, then your anaemia may be caused by RBC destruction. A prickling or burning sensation in the feet or hands could indicate a deficiency of vitamin B12.

Anaemia in the elderly

Many anaemia-causing disorders, such as cancer, are highly common in older people. These disorders also include hematologic malignancies (blood cancers) such as multiple myeloma and myelodysplastic syndrome. As a result, many elderly people develop anaemia. One of the most common causes of anaemia in older people is chronic disease anaemia (caused by cancer, chronic inflammation, or infection) and iron-deficiency anaemia (caused by abnormal bleeding). Anaemia is not a normal part of aging, and when it is discovered, the underlying cause must always be determined.

Anaemia symptoms essentially remain the same irrespective of age. Furthermore, even when anaemia is mild, elderly people are more inclined than younger people to become depressed, confused, agitated, or listless. They might also become jittery and find it difficult to walk. These issues can make it difficult to live independently. Some elderly people with mild anaemia, on the other hand, show no symptoms at all, especially when anaemia develops slowly, as it commonly does.

Anaemia resulting from a deficiency of vitamin B12 may be misdiagnosed as dementia in older people because it affects mental function.

Anaemia types

There are over 400 different types of anaemia, which are classified into three categories:

  • Anaemia resulting from blood loss
  • Anaemia caused by a decrease in or abnormal RBC production
  • Anaemia caused by red blood cell destruction

Among the various types of anaemia, some of the most commonly occurring are:

  • Anaemia emerging from a lack of vitamin B12
  • Anaemia due to a deficiency of folate (folic acid)
  • Anaemia caused by a deficiency of iron
  • Sickle cell anaemia
  • Chronic disease anaemia
  • Anaemia resulting from haemolysis
  • Pernicious anaemia
  • Thalassemia
  • Idiopathic aplastic anaemia
  • Megaloblastic anaemia

The most common type of anaemia is iron-deficiency anaemia:

  • Blood tests

Routine blood tests should be conducted to detect anaemia before you can notice symptoms.

Low haemoglobin levels or a reduced haematocrit (the percent of RBCs in the volume of blood) observed in a sample of blood confirm anaemia. Some other tests, including the analysis of a sample of blood under a microscope and, less frequently, an examination of a bone marrow sample, can help determine the cause of anaemia.

Anaemia treatment

There are two ways in which anaemia can be treated:

  • Treatment for the underlying cause of anaemia
  • Blood transfusion

The treatment course for anaemia depends on the cause.

Controlling the bleeding is the most important thing for people who have excessive bleeding. For instance, if a wound is bleeding profusely, applying pressure to the wound can cease the bleeding, and surgical intervention may be required. Prolonged uterine bleeding may necessitate the use of oral contraceptives or the removal of uterine fibroids.

Inadequate blood cell production is frequently caused by a lack of vital vitamins and nutrients, including iron and B12.

Individuals whose RBCs die prematurely may require immunosuppressive medication.

Finally, if the anaemia is severe, a blood transfusion may be required and can save a person’s life.

Complications: 

Anaemia, if left untreated, can lead to a variety of health issues, including:

  • Extreme exhaustion: Severe anaemia can leave you exhausted and unable to complete daily tasks.
  • Complications from pregnancy: Pregnant women suffering from folate deficiency anaemia are more likely to experience complications like premature birth.
  • Heart issues: Anaemia can result in an irregular or rapid heartbeat (arrhythmia). Anaemia causes your heart to pump more blood to compensate for the shortage of oxygen in your blood. This can result in cardiomegaly (an enlarged heart) or even heart failure.
  • Death:  Some hereditary anaemias, like sickle cell anaemia, can have fatal consequences. Losing a lot of blood quickly can lead to acute, severe anaemia, which can be fatal. Also, anaemia is linked with a higher risk of death in the elderly.

Am I at risk of developing anaemia?

You may be at a risk of contracting anaemia as a result of various conditions, including poor nutrition, intestinal conditions and disorders, chronic illnesses, and infectious diseases. Women who are pregnant or menstruating as well as individuals who have long-term medical conditions are most vulnerable to this disease. The risk of anaemia rises with the age.

If you suffer from any of the following chronic health conditions, you may be at a high risk of developing anaemia:

  • Kidney disorders
  • Rheumatoid arthritis or other autoimmune diseases
  • Liver disease
  • Cancer
  • Thyroid disease
  • Irritable bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)

What should I expect if I have anaemia?

Your prognosis, or expected outcome, is determined by the cause of your anaemia, the type of anaemia, and whether you suffer from a serious type of anaemia. The majority of the times, doctors can treat anaemia by assisting you with diet management or by prescribing medications. However, there are instances when you may have anaemia for the remainder of your life.

When should you see a doctor?

If you are feeling tired and do not know why, consider consulting your doctor.

There are many causes of fatigue other than anaemia. So, do not presume that if you are tired, you are anaemic. When you donate blood, sometimes you may discover that your haemoglobin is low, which is an indication of anaemia. Consult your doctor if you are told you cannot donate due to low haemoglobin.

When should I visit the emergency room?

Anaemia may increase your chances of having a heart attack. If you experience any of the following symptoms, consult your doctor or rush to the emergency room right away:

  • Chest pain
  • Trouble breathing
  • Sweating

Is anaemia avoidable?

Even though many types of anaemia are unavoidable, eating a healthy diet can help you avoid anaemia resulting from iron and vitamin deficiencies. You should include foods rich in iron (green leafy vegetables, beef, nuts, and dried fruits), vitamin B12 (meat and dairy), and folate (legumes, citrus juices, leafy vegetables, and fortified cereals) in your diet. A daily multivitamin will also aid you in the prevention of anaemia due to nutritional deficiencies; however, elderly individuals should avoid taking iron supplements for iron-deficiency anaemia unless directed to do so by their doctors.

FAQs

What are the most common anaemia symptoms?

The symptoms of anaemia depend on its type and severity. Depending on what the cause of anaemia is, symptoms may vary from no symptoms or mild to severe. The most common symptoms associated with anaemia are weakness, fatigue, drowsiness, and dizziness.

Is pale skin an indication of anaemia?

Pale skin can be one of the first signs of anaemia.

Is chest pain an anaemia symptom?

The symptoms of anaemia are usually determined by the severity and cause of the condition. Chest pain is observed in the severe cases of anaemia. You should consult your doctor right away if you are experiencing chest pain.

Are the anaemia symptoms different in adults and children?

Whether you are a child or an adult, the symptoms of anaemia are the same.

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