Anaemia -Meaning, causes, 5 classification, signs, prevention and treatment
Table of Contents
The blood is the body’s fuel, and the reason for this description is not far-fetched; it affects and is affected by every activity that goes on in the body.
As the body’s fuel, the blood level has to be kept fairly constant, and our system has natural ways of doing this. Notwithstanding, some situations such as anaemia may exceed the body’s capacity to handle, leading to an altered state.
What is Anaemia?
The simple definition of anaemia is a reduction in the amount of blood an individual has. However, anaemia encompasses more than just a reduction in the amount of blood. An accurate definition will include:
- Reduction in Red Blood cell (RBC) count
- Reduction in Packed cell volume (PCV)
- Decrease in haemoglobin content
What are the normal Values?
Red Blood Cell count
The blood itself appears to be totally liquid, but it contains different types of cells grouped according to their functions. These cells include; Red Blood cells (RBC) or erythrocytes, White blood cell (WBC) or leukocytes, and blood platelets or thrombocytes.
RBC count is the number of red blood cells found in the blood.
It is, however, difficult to calculate this for the 5 litres of blood present in an adult human, therefore, it is calculated per cubic millimetre of blood.
Normal values range between 4 – 5.5 million cells per cubic millimetres of blood, being slightly higher in males than in females.
Packed Cell Volume
This is the proportion of blood which red blood cells occupy. It is expressed in percentage and normal values range from 38 – 45%.
Haemoglobin is a protein found in red cells that is responsible for the visible red colour of blood. Its normal value per cell is 20 picogram.
What Causes Anaemia?
One or more of these factors can cause anaemia:
- Reduced production of red blood cells
- Excessive loss of blood
- Increased destruction of red cells
Classification of Anaemia
Based on the cause and manifestations, anaemia is classified into the following groups:
This is anaemia caused by excessive uncontrolled bleeding. Based on the severity, it can be further divided into acute and chronic types.
Acute hemorrhagic anaemia is easily repaired by the body because it occurs for just a short period of time.
On the other hand, chronic hemorrhagic anaemia proceeds over a longer period of time, and is not usually repaired by the body unless medical interventions come in. It can be seen in patients with Peptic ulcer disease (PUD), Hemophilia, Menorrhagia (Excessive menstrual flow) etc.
It is caused by rapid and uncontrolled destruction of red blood cells. Haemolytic anaemia can extrinsic or intrinsic, based on what causes the destruction of red blood cells.
Extrinsic haemolytic anaemia is caused by external factors like drugs; while the intrinsic type is caused by factors within the body.
Sickle cell anaemia and Thalassemia are the major examples of intrinsic haemolytic anaemia.
This is caused by a disorder in the bone marrow where red blood cells are normally produced.
Nutrition Deficiency Anaemia
The body requires enough nutrients such as iron, vitamins, proteins etc. in order to produce healthy and adequate amounts of red blood cells.
This implies that, if any of these nutrients are lacking, RBC production will be impaired, leading to anaemia.
Anaemia of chronic disease
Some diseases like tuberculosis, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic renal failure, etc. are associated with a corresponding drop in PCV, RBC count, and haemoglobin concentration. This type of anaemia cannot be treated directly unless the disease is cured.
Signs and Symptoms of Anaemia
Some of the signs will be easily seen or felt, and others will only appear after scans or medical examinations.
Examples of symptoms that will be felt or seen include
- Loss of appetite (Anorexia)
- Paleness in the colour of skin
- Change in stool colour to black
- Breaking of nails
- Interruption in menstrual cycle
- Shortness of breath
- Dizziness/ drowsiness
Other symptoms which may appear on further examination include
- Increased heart rate and cardiac murmurs
- Enlargement of the liver (hepatomegaly)
- Enlargement of the spleen (splenomegaly)
When to see a doctor
If you have any of the symptoms listed above you should see a doctor.
You may also need to see a doctor if bleeding prolongs and if the menstrual flow is heavier, and lasts longer.
In less severe types of anaemia, the body system compensates over a period of time, as long as the right dietary intake is maintained.
In some cases of severe blood loss, a blood transfusion may be required.
For sickle cell patients, the lasting solution is usually a bone marrow transplant.