Today I want to say something about a person’s blood, more so, what happens when the person’s body does not have the right level or amount of blood. I will also explain why your blood level may change and how.
Firstly, there is this fact to note—that if your blood has a few or abnormal Red Blood Cells (RBCs), then, your body won’t receive enough oxygen.
When the body is in such a state, we say, medically that a person has anaemia—the most common blood disease worldwide. It’s a disorder that develops when your blood lacks enough and healthy RBCs or the blood pigment known as hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a main part of the RBCs and carries oxygen to other parts of the body.
How prevalent is the problem
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), anaemia affects a staggering 24.8 per cent of the global population which amounts to a massive 1.62 billion people.
A study published in the US-based National Library of Medicine in 2015 showed that the overall prevalence of anemia in Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa was between 71 and 79 per cent, with a significant percent being caused by malaria and Sickle Cell Disease (SCD).
Yet, among pregnant women, the prevalence of anaemia in 2011 in Tanzania was 50 per cent, according to a report by the World Bank (WB) which clearly reflects the extent of this condition.
What causes the problem
Mainly, anaemia can be caused by three things—blood loss (such as when one bleeds heavily), when the body does not produce enough blood cells or when the red blood cells are being destroyed in the body.
The anaemia that is caused by blood loss can be due to a problem in the food canal (Gastrointestinal problems). These problems include ulcers and swollen veins that sometimes protrude from the anus (Hemorrhoids).
It may as well be caused by menstruation and childbirth and here, I am specifically talking about women.
The anaemia which is caused by decreased production of RBCs can be due to deficiency of iron or vitamins in the body.
At times, there could be a problem with the bone marrow or even sickle cell anemia.
Anaemia can also be caused by increased destruction of the RBC’s. This happens among people with inherited conditions such as thalassemia and sickle cell anemia, toxins from the liver or kidney disease, various infections, drugs or snake venom.
How to know someone has anaemia
I have talked about the various forms of anaemia and certainly, when a person is suffering from any of the different types, he/she may report for medical assistance with varying signs and symptoms.
But on a general note, someone with anaemia will typically experience fatigue, tiredness, rapid heartbeats, and shortness of breath, headache and difficulty concentrating.
The patient may complain of dizziness, insomnia and leg cramps. On physical examination, this patient will be found to have a pale skin.
Specifically, the anaemia due to RBC destruction usually includes signs like jaundice, brown/red urine and leg ulcers. The patient may experience abdominal pains and possibly seizures.
What people can do about anaemia
In order to prevent anaemia, it’s vital to eat a healthy balanced diet which is rich in iron and other vitamins.
These include foods like beef, lentils, green vegetables and plenty of fruits. Vitamin C rich foods may help increase the absorption of iron in the body.
You may also want to reduce your tea and coffee intake as they make it difficult for the body to absorb iron.
If you’re concerned whether you get enough vitamins from your diet or not, you should consider consulting your doctor who may advise on the use of multivitamin pills.
You might be able to prevent repeat episodes of some types of anemia, especially those caused by lack of iron or vitamins. Dietary changes or supplements can prevent these types of anemia from occurring again.
Treating anaemia’s underlying cause may prevent the condition. For example, if medicine is causing your anaemia, your doctor may prescribe another type of medicine.
To prevent anaemia from getting worse, tell your doctor about all of your signs and symptoms. Talk with your doctor about the tests you may need and follow your treatment plan.
If you have an inherited anemia, talk with your doctor about treatment and ongoing care.
The author is a Medical Student at Hubert Kairuki Memorial University.