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Anaemia is one of the most common form of blood disorders. It occurs when the body suffers a serious decrease in haemoglobin. A decline in haemoglobin results when red blood cells are destroyed faster than is normal, when the bone marrow is not making enough red blood cells, or if excessive bleeding occurs. Mild anemia may not show any symptoms but as the condition worsens the victim will experience more fatigue than usual and will look pale. Also, the underside of the eyelids, nails, lips and the creases in the palms will lighten. None of these changes are very noticeable and may not cause any particular concern, which explains why anemia is usually only discovered when blood tests are taken during routine physical exams or when the patient has consulted a doctor with another problem. These is more than one type of anemia as we will find out below.

Iron Deficiency Anemia (IDA)
This is the most common form of anemia and is a result of lack of iron in the blood. Blood may be depleted of iron for several reasons such as blood loss from menstruation or bleeding ulcers, poor diet and conditions such as growth spurts, pregnancy and breast-feeding. The primary treatment for IDA is to add more iron to the diet but if that doesn't work an iron supplement may be necessary.

Pernicious Anemia
This type of anemia occurs if your body is not absorbing enough vitamin B12 from the digestive tract to make red blood cells. Although this illness is easily controlled with Vitamin B12 injections, it is quite serious if left untreated and can cause permanent damage to the nervous system and digestive tract. If you find yourself suffering from unexplained fatigue and weight loss, a sore tongue or a racing pulse you should consult your GP immediately.

Anemia From Folic Acid Deficiency
Unexplained weight loss and diarrhea can also be a symptom of another form of anemia caused by a diet deficient in folic acid. Folic acid is important in the production of red blood cells and is absorbed from foods such as meat and dairy products. In addition to diet changes, folic acid can be taken in pill form. However, you should contact your GP before taking a supplement as there could be side effects.

Hemolytic Anemia
This occurs when red blood cells are destroyed too soon. This type of anemia can be difficult to treat as there are so many possible causes, including side effects of medication, infections, congenital abnormalities and autoimmune responses where the body mistakenly tries to kill its own red blood cells. In addition to the usual symptoms of fatigue and paleness, patients with Hemolytic Anemia also suffer from increased heart rates, breathlessness, jaundice and an enlarged spleen. If the underlying cause has been determined to be an autoimmune problem, the condition will respond well to cortisosteriod treatment. In rare cases, the spleen must be removed to effect reversal of the disease.

Aplastic Anemia
This is a condition that occurs when the bone marrow does not produce enough of any of the three types of blood cells - red, white and platelets. This lack of red blood cells creates a shortage of haemoglobin, the drop in white blood cells leaves the body susceptible to infections while the decrease in platelets, which helps the blood clot,
means the patients bruises and bleeds easily. Aplastic Anemia is frequently an unwelcome by-product of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. It may also result from exposure to toxic products such as insecticides and solvents, immune system problems, and as a side effect of taking some medications. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath and bruising. In mild cases, transfusions will replenish the supply of blood cells and antibiotics can protect the patient against infection until the immune system has been restored. A bone marrow transplant may be necessary in very severe cases

Sickle Cell Disease
Sickle Cell Disease (SCD), commonly referred to as Sickle Cell Anemia, is an inherited disease striking mostly persons of African American ancestry. The red blood cells of a healthy person are flexible and shaped like a disc, but when a person suffers from SCD they become crescent (sickle) shaped and rigid, especially during periods of exertion when the body’s need for oxygen increases. The distorted shape and rigidity make it difficult for cells to flow through blood vessels, clogging them and causing severe pain. Treatment for SCD remains limited. Antibiotics help prevent infections and certain medication can help alleviate the pain. Additionally, bone marrow transplants may be an option.