Anaemia is a medical term for low red blood cell count or haemoglobin. Anaemia can be caused by a number of medical conditions
Red blood cells contain a protein called haemoglobin. Haemoglobin has the important function of delivering oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body.(1) All tissues require oxygen to survive.
Haemoglobin levels are different in adult females and males. For men the normal haemoglobin reference range is between 130–180 g/L and females 120–160 g/L.(1)
Red blood cells are produced by the bone marrow and have a normal life span of 120 days.(2) New red blood cells are constantly required to replace old red blood cells with millions of red blood cell being released into the blood stream each day in healthy people.
To produce new red blood cells the body needs key ingredients such as iron.
Symptoms experienced with anaemia are a result of the reduced amount of oxygen in the body. Common symptoms include: tiredness, lethargy, feeling faint, and becoming easily breathless. Less common symptoms include: headaches, palpitations, altered taste, and ringing in the ears.(3)
Other symptoms may be experienced depending on the cause of the anaemia.
There are many possible causes of anaemia; however, it is generally caused by either by:
In all cases the underlying problem needs to be established.
Iron Deficiency anaemia is a common cause of anaemia in Australia and is due to a lack of iron. The reason for the lack of iron also needs to be established.
Some other causes of anaemia include:
A blood test is performed to determine if a person is anaemic. The blood test used measures both the number of red blood cells and the amount of haemoglobin in a person’s blood.
You should always see your doctor if you have any symptoms of anaemia. Your doctor will assess your symptoms, investigate accordingly and determine if any treatment is required.
Sometimes the cause may be easily recognised, in other cases more tests may be required.
The treatment of anaemia is determined by the identification of the cause. In many cases treatment prescribed by a doctor may be as simple as iron tablets.
In other situations it may be a course of specific vitamins or more complex treatment such as a red blood cell transfusion. Any underlying disease may also need to be treated.
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