Simply put, anaemia is an inadequate number of red blood cells in the blood stream and a lower than normal proportion of hemoglobin in the blood. There are several different types of anaemia (also spelt anemia); each type having a different underlying cause, and equally each type requiring different types of treatment.
There are some 400 types of anaemia, which are categorized according to their causes (a) by blood loss, (b) by faulty or low red blood cell production and (c) by abnormal destruction or breakdown of red blood cells.
We look at the most common anaemia types, their causes and treatment options.
Iron deficiency anaemia
This is the most common type of this disorder and is caused by deficiency of iron that could be caused by nutritional deficiency (where the body doesn’t consume enough iron), due to blood loss or due to the body’s inability to absorb the iron. This in turn causes the body to produce inadequate red blood cells.
Iron deficiency anemia is more common in women, since more iron is needed by women (due to monthly menstruation). These types of anaemia can be resolved by taking iron supplements, or supplements to increase iron absorption as well as dietary changes to include more sources of iron.
This type of anaemia is caused by an abnormal breakdown of red blood cells can could be inherited or acquired. This kind of disorder also leads to problems such as jaundice and could increase risk of gallstones, and pulmonary hypertension if left unmanaged. The symptoms of this type of anemia are tiredness and becoming easily out of breath, as in the case of other types of anaemia.
Certain medications or presence of substances such as copper, lead and other toxic materials in the blood stream could be the cause, as could certain autoimmune conditions. Treatments include blood transfusions.
Pernicious anaemia (Addison’s anaemia)
This type of anemia is caused by loss of gastric parietal cells which prevent the proper absorption of Vitamin B 12. Symptoms could include fatigue, memory or concentration problems, nausea, digestive problems, anxiety, low grade fever, weight loss, and pale skin and so on. Symptoms of this anemia can be controlled with the help of Vitamin B 12 supplements, though a permanent cure is not available.
Sickle cell anemia
This is a genetic blood disorder which is characterized by an abnormal sickle shape to the red blood cells that reduces their flexibility and causes various problems. These types of anaemia are usually present from birth and are detected in childhood. The complications that can arise from this condition can be life threatening and include stroke, leg ulcers, intolerances, pain, certain infections, decreased immune function etc. Various supplements and other complex options such as bone marrow transplant may be needed to manage this condition.
This is another one of the more common types of anaemia, a genetic defect characterized by hemoglobin problems. It is often seen in people of Mediterranean extraction and serious causes may even require bone marrow transfusions.