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Overview of Anemia

Anemia is a medical condition in which the blood doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells which is needed to carry oxygen to the body’s organs and tissues.

There are many different types and causes of anemia of which Iron deficiency anemia is the most common type.

Iron deficiency anemia (IDA) occurs when your body doesn’t have enough iron to make hemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells (RBC’s) that carries oxygen.

Untreated IDA can cause problems such as fatigue and lack of energy. IDA is the most common form of anemia worldwide.

Anemia can also make you feel cold and weak. You may also have trouble breathing, and your heart may have to work harder to pump blood.

Other causes of anemia include blood loss, certain chronic diseases, and bone marrow problems.
Anemia can be serious, but it’s often treatable.

If you think you may be at risk for anemia, or are experiencing symptoms, be sure to talk to your doctor.

We discuss everything you need to know about Anemia and how you can prevent this from affecting your quality of life.


What is Anemia


If you’re feeling tired and run down, it could be more than just the hustle and bustle of everyday life. You could be experiencing iron deficiency anemia.

Anemia is a blood disorder that occurs when there are not enough healthy red blood cells in the body.
Red blood cells carry oxygen to all parts of the body.

There are many different types of anemia, each with its own cause.

Some types of anemia are more serious than others. The most common type of anemia is iron-deficiency anemia.

It occurs when the body does not have enough iron. Iron is needed to make hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen.



Types of Anemia

There are three types of anemia:

Iron Deficiency Anemia: This is the most common type of anemia. It is caused by not getting enough iron in the diet or by losing too much blood.

Blood Loss Anemia: This type of anemia can be caused by bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract, heavy menstrual bleeding, or blood loss from injury or surgery.

Chronic Disease Anemia: This type of anemia can be caused by certain chronic medication.

Causes of Anemia


Anemia is a condition that can be caused by a variety of factors.

Common causes include:

  • Blood loss
  • Poor nutrition
  • Certain medical conditions
  • Certain medications or treatments

Anemia can be a serious condition, so it is important to get treatment.


Symptoms of Anemia

There are a variety of symptoms associated with anemia. They can range from mild to severe and can include the following:

  • Headache
  • Frequent urination
  • Yellow skin
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Weight gain
  • Exhaustion
  • Mental Confusion
  • Pale skin, dry skin, or easily bruised skin
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Tingling or pins and needles sensation in the hands and feet
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Sore tongue
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Feeling cold
  • Vomiting
  • Brittle nails
  • Hair loss
  • Change in sense of taste

In children a lack of attention, delayed development of motor skills and learning problems can occur.

If you think you may be experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor to get a diagnosis.



How is Anemia Diagnosed?


To diagnose anemia, your doctor will likely take your medical history, do a physical exam, and order a blood test.

The blood test will measure your hemoglobin and hematocrit levels. A low hemoglobin level is an indicator of anemia.

The type and number of blood and other tests will depend on the type of anemia your provider believes you have.

Anemia can also be diagnosed by your doctor based on the following parameters:

These tests may be ordered by your doctor after a trial period of treatment with iron supplements.

Risk Factors of Anemia


There are many different types of anemia, each with its own set of causes. However, there are some general risk factors that can increase your chances of developing this condition.

These include:

  • A family history of anemia
  • Certain medical conditions, such as autoimmune disorders, kidney disease, or cancer
  • Certain medications, such as those used to treat cancer or HIV
  • A diet low in iron, folate, or vitamin B12
  • Pregnancy
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Chronic inflammation

If you have any of these risk factors, it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of anemia.

There are many different types of anemia, each with its own set of risk factors. But women are at particular risk for some types of anemia.

Here’s a look at some of the risk factors for anemia in women. One of the most common types of anemia is iron-deficiency anemia. This form of anemia is caused by a lack of iron in the body.

Women are at particular risk for iron-deficiency anemia because of blood loss during menstruation.

If you have heavy menstrual periods, you may be at risk for iron-deficiency anemia.

There are some general risk factors that can increase a child’s chances of developing anemia.

One of the most common risk factors is a lack of iron in the diet. Iron is essential for the production of red blood cells, and a diet lacking in iron can lead to anemia.

Other risk factors include a lack of other nutrients such as folate and vitamin B12, chronic illnesses and blood loss.


Anemia and Pregnancy


Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe. Pregnant women are especially at risk for anemia because of the increased demand for iron during pregnancy.

During pregnancy, the body needs more iron to make more blood to supply oxygen to the growing fetus.

The body needs iron to make hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in the blood. There are several risk factors for anemia during pregnancy.

One is simply not having enough iron in the diet. Another is bleeding, which can occur during pregnancy, childbirth, or after a miscarriage.

Bleeding can also occur from other causes, such as ulcers, hemorrhoids, or nosebleeds. Certain medical conditions can also lead to anemia.

How to Prevent Anemia

There are several ways to prevent anemia.

Eating a diet that includes iron-rich foods, such as meat, poultry, fish, beans, and leafy green vegetables, can help prevent anemia.

Taking a daily multivitamin that contains iron can also help.

If you have any chronic medical conditions or take medications that can cause anemia, your doctor may recommend additional treatments or supplements.



Contact the Experts


Anemia can be a serious condition, but there are things that you can do to manage it and keep yourself healthy.

Work with your doctor to come up with a treatment plan that is right for you, and make sure to follow all of their instructions.

Be sure to eat a healthy diet, get plenty of exercise, and get regular checkups to make sure that your anemia is under control.

Dr Eduan prides himself on his ability to help his patients to the best of his ability by embracing good listening skills, effective communication, compassion and knowledge and skill honed during years of private gastroenterology practice.

If you would like to book an appointment with a gastrointestinal (GI) specialist or would simply like more information on a particular GI topic, don’t hesitate to use our online booking form or call Dr. Deetlefs at 021 551 867.


The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.

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© Dr. Eduan Deetlefs, Registered Gastroenterologist, GI Doc Cape Town

Our website information is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a doctor about your specific condition. Only a trained physician can determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.