Anaemia

Written by Dr Claudia Pastides, 14th June 2019

Anaemia is a condition where there are not enough healthy red blood cells in the bloodstream to carry oxygen around the body.

Causes

Anaemia can be caused by:

  • Your body not making enough red blood cells (e.g. due to not having enough iron, B12 or folate)
  • Bleeding (e.g. heavy periods)
  • A genetic reason (e.g. inheriting sickle cell disease or thalassaemia)
  • Bone marrow disease
  • Having a long standing health condition (e.g. chronic kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis)

Risk factors

Common risk factors for developing anaemia include:

  • A diet lacking in essential vitamins (iron, B12 and folate)
  • Bowel diseases such as Crohn’s or Coeliac disease cause reduced absorption of vitamins necessary for making red blood cells
  • Having heavy periods
  • Pregnancy
  • A family history of inherited anaemia
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Being aged over 65

Typical Symptoms

Many people with anaemia have no symptoms at all or very mild ones. Typical symptoms include:

  • Feeling tired
  • Feeling weak
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness or feeling lightheaded
  • Headaches
  • Having a fast or irregular heart beat

Common Treatment

Treatment depends on the cause. A GP will be able to narrow down the likely causes and arrange a blood test.

Common treatment includes:

  • Iron, B12 or folate supplements
  • Rarely people require blood transfusions

When to speak to a doctor

If you think you might be anaemic, speak to a doctor.

The more common causes of anaemia can often be managed via a digital consultation. If the GP decides you need a face to face appointment, they will discuss what steps you can take next. It is likely you will need to have a blood test.To speak to one of our Babylon GPs, download the app and create an account today.


Prevention

Anaemia that is caused by a vitamin deficiency can be improved or prevented by consuming foods rich in those vitamins.

  • Iron containing foods include:
  • Beef and other red meat
  • Beans and lentils
  • Dark green leafy vegetables

Folate is especially found in :

  • Fruit and fruit juices
  • Dark green leafy vegetables
  • Kidney beans and peanuts

B12 can be found in:

  • Meat
  • Dairy
  • Soy products.

More information

NHS, Iron deficiency anaemia - https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/iron-deficiency-anaemia/

Please note that this material is for general information only and should never be used as a substitute for personalised medical advice provided during a consultation with a doctor.