Medical Q&As

Anaemia - causes and complications?

I am 17 years of age and my friend has been diagnosed with having anaemia. I would like to know if this disease can be cured or of it is a disease for life. What are the complications of pregnancy when suffering from anaemia?

Anaemia means that the number of red cells circulating in the blood is low. This can happen for a variety of reasons therefore the treatment very much depends on the cause. The commonest reason for anaemia in young people is dietary deficiency. This usually happens because there is insufficient iron in the diet and this situation is referred to as iron deficiency anaemia. Anaemia can also occur if the diet is deficient in vitamin B12, vitamin C or folic acid. Diseases of the bone marrow can also result in anaemia since the marrow is the site where the red blood cells are manufactured. Anaemia can also occur as a secondary condition with other diseases such as chronic infection, liver disease, kidney disease, autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism and malignant diseases. Anaemia can also occur as a result of blood loss. It is worth emphasising that many young women are on the borderline of anaemia because the amount of iron lost with the menstrual flow each month just about equals the amount of iron consumed in the average diet. If a young woman has a heavy menstrual flow and eats a diet that is low in iron it does not take very long for that person to become anaemic. With regard to pregnancy, anaemia can pose particular problems, which is the reason why it is routinely screened for and most women are usually given iron supplements. During the course of pregnancy the developing foetus makes great demand on the motherís supply of iron with the result that the mother can become progressively anaemic as she proceeds through the pregnancy. If the motherís iron levels are below normal as the expected date of delivery draws near the mother may need to be given iron by injection. Iron levels are scrutinised very carefully during the course of pregnancy with the result that serious complications due to anaemia are not seen very often.