Anemia is a condition that develops when your blood lacks enough healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a main part of red blood cells and binds oxygen. If you have too few or abnormal red blood cells, or your hemoglobin is abnormal or low, the cells in your body will not get enough oxygen.
- Common symptoms are due to the reduced amount of oxygen in the body. These include tiredness, having little energy (lethargy), feeling faint, and becoming easily breathless.
- Less common symptoms include headaches, a thumping heart (palpitations), altered taste, and ringing in the ears (tinnitus).
- You may look pale.
- Various other symptoms may develop, depending on the underlying cause of the anemia.
A simple blood test can measure the amount of hemoglobin in your blood and count the number of red blood cells per milliliter (ml). Although this test can confirm that you are anemic, it does not identify the cause of your anemia.
Sometimes the underlying cause is obvious. For example, anemia is common in pregnancy and in women who have heavy menstrual periods. In these situations, no further tests may be needed and treatment with iron tablets may be advised. However, the cause of the anemia may not be clear and so further tests may be advised.
Some causes of anemia are more serious than others and it is important to find the reason for anemia. The treatment of anemia depends on the underlying cause. For many people this may simply be iron tablets. For others it may be a course of vitamins or other more complex treatments.