Anaemia can affect any one at any given time, and can sometimes make you feel like you’ve just picked up a virus. Symptoms can vary, but with the most common form of anaemia – iron deficiency – you may feel your energy levels decreasing. You may suffer headaches, dizziness, and palpitations. With a virus, these symptoms would soon pass, but anaemia will persist without the correct treatment. Health services for anaemia may vary based upon the cause.
Symptoms of Anaemia
Whatever the cause, health services for anaemia are available and are dependent on your symptoms which are likely to include:
- Tiredness and lack of energy
- Shortness of breath
- A pale complexion
- Heart palpitations
There are also a number of less common symptoms which can include hair loss, a desire to eat non-food items, feeling itchy, or difficulty swallowing. More information on the various symptoms of anaemia can be found on the NHS website.
Iron Deficiency – The Most Common Cause
Iron deficiency is the most common form of anaemia. Women are particularly at risk of suffering from this type of anaemia, mainly due to blood loss during menstruation. A common misconception is that anaemia is caused by iron deficiency within the diet, but this is rarely the case.
The most common cause of this type of anaemia is blood loss, whether it be from menstruation, a stomach ulcer, or something much more serious such as bowel cancer. Pregnancy can also cause iron deficiency, as a woman’s body is put under extra pressure to provide all of the necessary nutrients to both mother and baby. Infants and children may also suffer if they undergo rapid growth spurts or, in the case of infants, if they are born prematurely or are unable to get all the nutrients they need from breast milk or formula.
Treatment for this type of anaemia is straightforward and will in most cases involve taking iron supplements. These can be prescribed by your doctor, but there are also a number of products available at your local pharmacy. You are able to discuss your symptoms with a pharmacist who can then recommend a suitable product, or advise you if your symptoms appear to require more attention. An increase in dietary iron is also beneficial, even if diet is not the cause. High-iron foods include meat, fish, leafy green vegetables like spinach or curly kale, eggs, and brown rice.
In some more serious cases of iron deficiency, a blood transfusion or intravenous iron treatment could be necessary. This is usually the case only for women who have just given birth, or for those who have lost a lot of blood during an operation or accident.
Other less common types of anaemia include:
- Aplastic Anaemia
- Haemolytic Anaemia
- Sickle Cell Anaemia
- Pernicious Anaemia
- Fanconi’s Anaemia
All of these forms of anaemia require medical attention and can all vary in their levels of seriousness. Treatment also varies, but can include blood transfusions, marrow and stem cell transplants, medication, lifestyle changes, or gene therapy.
Health Services For Anaemia – When To Seek Medical Advice
Health services for anaemia depend upon the form and severity of your symptoms. If your symptoms are mild, you can begin by discussing them with your pharmacist to see if there are any products available which could help. They will also be able to advise you on whether seeing your GP could be worthwhile.
If you are suffering from any of the symptoms of iron deficiency or the less common forms of anaemia, you should contact your GP or Out Of Hours Service to see what the next step should be. You can contact out of hours by calling NHS Direct on 111. You will be able to discuss your symptoms and concerns with the NHS Direct nurses over the phone.
Once they have determined the correct course of action, they may advise you to make an appointment with your out of hours service – either at one of our primary care or urgent care centres. Otherwise they could advise you to make an appointment with your GP at your earliest convenience.