Are you anemic?



Do you experience the following?

  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Pallour (paleness)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fainting
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Restless legs
  • Jaundice (heamolytic anemia)
  • Bone deformities
  • Leg ulcers (sickle cell anemia)
  • Pica (non food cravings – eg. ice)

In this case, you may be anemic, which is diagnosed by a blood count and identifying the shape and size of red blood cells.

Types of anemia:

An iron deficiency – This is caused by a decreased absorption of iron, a loss of iron from the body (usually though bleeding) or an increased iron requirement. Mal-absorption or poor nutrition may result in less iron being absorbed. Premature babies often have very low iron levels. Heavy menstrual bleeding, pregnancy or gastrointestinal diseases may also deplete iron storage.

This type of anemia manifests as depressed moods, mental lethargy, poor attention-span and apathy and is quite common in women and vegetarians/vegans.


Increase intake of foods high in iron such as green leafy vegetables use iron supplements.

Pernicious anemia:

This is the result of the inadequate absorption of vitamin B12. This is caused by an absence of intrinsic factor (a chemical secreted by the stomach lining which assists with the absorption in vitamin B12). This may be a result of an auto-immune disease whereby the body is attacking the cells that secrete intrinsic factor. This anemia can also occur after a stomach operation.


This anemia cannot be cured. Vitamin B12 injections for the rest of the patient’s life are required.

Aplastic anemia:

This is caused by a decreased bone marrow production of red blood cells, platelets and white blood cells, which can result in abnormal bleeding. This type of anemia is normally caused by drugs such as immune suppressants and anti-cancer medication. It can also be caused by an autoimmune disease or severe illness.

Treatment includes isolation, blood transfusions and bone marrow transplants.

Haemolytic anemia:

This is caused by haemolysis (the premature destruction of red blood cells). Cells are destroyed because of abnormalities (sickle cell illnesses, blood transfusions) or because the body is attacking them (the auto-immune system ) and the bone marrow cannot produce enough red blood cells to compensate. Symptoms include jaundice and spleomegaly (enlargement of the spleen).

Source: Camelot international pathophysiology manual (2013)