ANAEMIA: MORE COMMON THAN YOU THINK

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Anaemia: More Common Than You Think

Low red blood cells, also known as iron deficiency anaemia, is a health problem that affects both women and children globally. Studies have shown that anaemia affects 1 in 5 persons. A recent study done in 2020 in England corroborated findings that females are at higher risk of developing anaemia than in males (10.9% vs 6.3%).

Screening for anaemia is readily available at polyclinics, General Practitioners (GPs), and health screening centres. However, diagnosing anaemia may not be straightforward as anaemia may be concealed by inflammatory conditions. A blood test called an iron panel is normally prescribed by doctors to test for suspected anaemia.

1. Some symptoms of anaemia are:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Recurrent headaches
  • Increased breathlessness/weakness
  • Pica, a compulsive eating disorder in which people consume non-food items
  • Restless leg syndrome (uncontrollable urge to move legs especially when in uncomfortable positions)

2. Upon physical examination, these symptoms may also be observed:

  • Pale complexion
  • Dry rough skin and spoon shaped nails
  • Anaemia tongue (swollen, inflamed tongue)
  • Alopecia (hair loss)
  • When routine blood investigation show that there is low haemoglobin count seen in small red blood cell

3. Groups at risk factors for iron deficiency include:

  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Menorrhagia (abnormally heavy menstrual bleeding)
  • Electrolyte imbalance in gastrointestinal disease (heavy fluid or blood loss from piles or inflammatory bowel disease)
  • Gastrointestinal malabsorption issues

Treating anaemia

Once the cause of anaemia is investigated, there are several ways your doctor will treat the condition. They include:

  • Oral iron supplements
  • Foods rich in iron such as dark leafy greens and red meats and vitamin C to aid iron absorption
  • Intravenous iron (for patients unresponsive to oral supplement)
  • Red blood cell infusion
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In summary

Anaemia can be difficult to detect, thus more tests need to be performed to determine the correct underlying cause before starting treatment. If you feel some of symptoms are relatable to you, do considering consulting a doctor. It is essential you and your doctor have a complete examination of your history and discuss what is the best management for you.

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