Anaemia is a condition that results from the deficiency of Haemoglobin in the blood. Though commonly known as the ‘Poor Man’s Disease’, Anemia widely affects all sections of the society irrespective of age, gender and anatomy.
Anaemia can be of various types, depending upon the cause. There can be several factors responsible for anaemic condition in the body. Whether it is due to iron deficiency, excess bleeding or heredity factors, anaemia needs to be treated effectively as soon as possible.
Medically speaking, anemia is not a disease in itself but a deficiency that leads to other disorders in the body. There are over 400 types of anemia but most of them are rare. We will discuss some of the common forms of anaemia in this article.
There are several classifications for Anaemia and each requires a specific kind of treatment. Understanding the various classifications can help you understand the treatment options available and also prevent various health disorders that result from anaemia.
Classification for Anemia – Types and Symptoms
Deficiency of Iron
Iron is an essential nutrient that is required for the production of red blood cells in the body. When the iron content in the body reduces, the production of red blood cells is hampered which leads to Anaemia. This can be due to excessive bleeding during menstruation, gastrointestinal infections, blood loss due to injuries etc. Poor diet and chronic illness can also lead to iron-deficiency anemia.
Symptoms include paleness of skin, frequent headaches, irritability, brittle hair and nails and rapid heartbeat. This type of anemia can be treated by simple dietary modifications and taking oral iron supplements.
Folic Acid Deficiency
As the name suggests, this kind of anaemia is due to lack of Folic Acid in the blood. Folic acid is a B-group Vitamin that is found in green vegetables and fruits. When we do not consume enough vegetables/fruits or when the veggies are overcooked, a folic acid deficiency can develop.
Most pregnant women suffer from this kind of anemia as during pregnancy the body requires higher amounts of Folic Acid. Symptoms include fatigue, weakness, memory lapse and increased mood swings.
Anemia that results from Folic acid deficiency can be corrected by including green vegetables such as asparagus and spinach, red kidney beans and beef liver in your daily diet.
Pernicious anemia results from the lack of Vitamin B12 and mostly affects people within the age group of 50-60 years. Pernicious anemia is mostly hereditary but in some cases, this can result from autoimmune disorders.
Symptoms include fatigue/tiredness, heart palpitations, Dyspnea and numbness or tingling sensations in the body. If diagnosed at an early stage, Pernicious anemia can be treated with Vitamin B12 shots or pills.
Aplastic anemia is characterized by an absence or reduction in the red blood cells. This can result from severe blood loss due to an injury, heavy menstruation, hepatitis or exposure to certain toxins. A lack of red blood cells inhibits the disease fighting ability of the body and the person becomes prone to various infections.
Lethargy, paleness of skin, heavy bleeding, rapid heartbeat, multiple infections and heart failure are some of the common symptoms of Aplastic anemia.
People suffering from mild to moderate Aplastic anaemia do not require treatment as long as the condition does not deteriorate further. For severe cases, treatment includes blood transfusions, blood and marrow stem cell transplants and medications.
Sickle Cell Anaemia
Sickle cell anemia is an inherited life-long disease in which the body makes sickle-shaped (shaped like a ‘C’) red blood cells. Sickle cells contain abnormal haemoglobin and tend to from clumps. These clumps get stuck in the blood vessels causing pain, multiple infections and serious organ damage.
Symptoms include jaundice, high fever, rapid heart beat, fatigue, paleness of skin and severe pain in various body parts especially arms, legs and stomach. Severe form of sickle cell anaemia can lead to ulcers, cerebral hemorrhage and orthopedic disorders.
Unfortunately there is no permanent cure for this disease. Treatment involves alleviating the symptoms by medication, supplements and therapy. Bone marrow transplants can also offer relief in some conditions.
Thalassemia is a genetically inherited disorder that causes excessive damage to the red blood cells. This condition can be major or minor depending upon the number of hemoglobin molecules the body can synthesize.
The most common and severe form of anemia is Cooley’s Anemia. People of African, Chinese, Indian, Italian, Greek and Middle Eastern ethnicity are at a higher risk of developing Thalassemia.
Symptoms include deformed facial bones, dark colored urine, fatigue, jaundice, swelling of the liver & spleen, growth failure, chest pain and dizziness.
Treatment depends on the severity of the condition and mostly involves blood transfusion, bone marrow transplant and iron chelation (removal of excess iron from the bloodstream). Its best to treat Thalassemia at an early stage as it can prove to be fatal if left untreated for long.
Anaemia can occur for a number of reasons – it can arise from the failure of the bone marrow to synthesize red blood cells or because of the inability of the body to absorb specific components required for the production of red blood cells or due to genetic mutations. Whatever be the type or cause for anaemia, it is best to treat it at an early stage and alleviate the symptoms completely.