Anaemia is defined as a health condition in which a person lacks sufficient healthy red blood cells to supply oxygen to the various organs in the body. The main cause for this disease is generally due to low iron levels, in which an ample amount is necessary for haemoglobin production, a process that produces the substance responsible for moving oxygen throughout our entire system.
At present, anaemia is classified into three categories, but they all arise from the same cause: insufficiency of oxygen-bearing red blood cells in the body. Globally, the disease affects roughly more than two billion people or about 30% of the world’s total population1. In Singapore, iron deficiency anaemia is the most common type diagnosed amongst the population2.
Symptoms Of Anaemia
Several symptoms arise from all types of anaemia. Some of the common ones are:
Tiredness or fatigue
Weakness or dizziness
Pale, dry, or easily bruised skin
Accelerated or irregular heartbeat
Different types of anaemia will present different symptoms; however, they all share one common symptom, which is fatigue. If left untreated, patients are at risk of developing a number of other health problems, such as arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat, heart failure, and an enlarged heart.
Also, they’ll be more vulnerable to infections and depression due to a lower quality of life. For some people, anaemia can even reach a point where they feel so tired that they can’t complete everyday tasks.
Types Of Anaemia
Anaemia is generally classified as acute or chronic and can be further divided into different types. Below are some of the most common types of anaemia.
· Iron-deficiency anaemia
This type of anaemia is primarily caused by low levels of iron that result in the red blood cells becoming smaller in size. Therefore, the person’s blood does not contain the normal amount of healthy red blood cells needed to carry sufficient oxygen all over the body.
· Chronic disease anaemia
This type of anaemia is typically associated with a chronic illness present in the body. The red blood cells in this disease are normal in size but don’t get replenished at a normal rate, thus resulting in low levels of new red blood cells to replace the older ones.
· Sickle cell anaemia
Sickle cell anaemia belongs to a group of disorders called sickle cell disease. It’s a hereditary health issue that results in a lack of healthy red blood cells to carry sufficient oxygen throughout the entire body.
Also a hereditary disease, thalassemia is a blood disorder caused by the body’s inability to create enough haemoglobin, resulting in unhealthy red blood cells that can’t function properly nor last as long as they normally would.
Difference Between Acute And Chronic Anaemia
Acute anaemia happens whenever there is a sharp drop in red blood cells levels in the body, which most often occurs due to acute haemorrhage (blood loss) or hemolysis (destruction of blood cells) Chronic anaemia, in contrast, is characterised by the decline of red blood cells in the body, which occurs gradually over time. Its typically caused by iron or any other nutritional deficiencies, medications, and chronic diseases.
When Should You Be Worried?
If left untreated, anaemia can negatively affect patients in both the short and long term due to the number of health problems that may arise from the disease. Knowing the risk factors of anaemia can increase the chances of someone getting prompt treatment for the condition.
Should you or your loved ones exhibit symptoms such as constant fatigue, along with risk factors including a diet lacking in certain vitamins and minerals such as iron, folate and vitamin B-12, having been diagnosed with a chronic condition such as kidney failure, cancer or diabetes that can lead to a shortage of red blood cells, or a family history of anaemia – it’s recommended to seek assistance with a doctor.
While people over the age of 65 are at an increased risk of anaemia, the condition can also be experienced by children and teenagers, as well as pregnant women.
To diagnose anaemia, a doctor will first assess your family health and medical history, along with a physical exam and conduct blood tests such as a complete blood count (CBC) or check your blood iron levels with a Ferritin test.
Upon diagnosis, your doctor can then work with you on the best treatment plan to treat the underlying disease and manage the symptoms so you can continue to lead a normal and fulfilling life.
Anaemia is a serious health condition that shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you’re diagnosed with the most common type of anaemia in Singapore (i.e. iron-deficiency anaemia), some of the best ways to manage it at home are by taking iron supplements with your doctor’s prescription and adding more vitamin C to your daily diet. As anaemia is a possible symptom of cancer, for example, blood cancers or colon cancer, in certain cases your doctor may also recommend a cancer screening test to ensure that your symptoms are not being caused by the disease.
If you are suffering from constant fatigue and it has come to a point where it is affecting your daily life, visit our team of specialized doctors at ICS. Whether you are looking for a lung cancer specialist or simply want to get a Cancer-Focused Health Screening done, we are always ready to extend a helping and caring hand to anyone who walks through our doors.
1. Anemia: Symptoms, Types, Causes, Risks, Treatment & Management. (2020). Retrieved 11 August 2021, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/3929-anemia
2. Anaemia – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment | Mount Elizabeth Hospitals. Retrieved 11 August 2021, from https://www.mountelizabeth.com.sg/specialties/medical-specialties/transplantation-cellular/anaemia