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Anaemia is a lack of red blood cells. These important cells carry oxygen from the lungs around the body.

Anaemia is a lack of red blood cells. These important cells carry oxygen from the lungs around the body.
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Anaemia

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Anaemia is a lack of red blood cells or haemoglobin. Red blood cells and haemoglobin, the molecule in red blood cells that make them red, are important because they carry oxygen from the lungs around the body. It’s important to find and treat the cause of the anaemia as well as the anaemia itself.

Symptoms of anaemia

If you have anaemia, you will feel tired and short of breath, even when doing things you could usually do easily.

You may also have a fast or irregular heartbeat, look pale, have cold feet or hands, feel dizzy or faint.

It’s important to see your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.

Causes of anaemia

You can become anaemic if you:

  • don’t make enough healthy red blood cells in your bone marrow – this can be due to an inherited disease or bone marrow disease
  • lose red blood cells through bleeding, whether that be heavy periods, a fast bleed or one so slow you didn’t even notice it
  • have a disease that destroys red blood cells
  • lack in the nutrients required to make haemoglobin, such as iron

Diagnosis of anaemia

A blood test is usually performed to diagnose anaemia. If you have anaemia, your doctor will talk to you and examine you to work out how severe the anaemia is, and what the cause could be. You might be asked to have more tests, depending on what your doctor has learnt from talking to you and examining you.

Treatment of anaemia

The treatment depends on the cause. But there are usually two parts:

  • treating the anaemia itself
  • treating the cause of the anaemia

Prevention of anaemia

You can reduce your chances of getting anaemia by:

  • having a healthy diet
  • seeing your doctor if you are feeling unusually tired

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Last reviewed: July 2018


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