Anaemia or Low Haemoglobin

What is Anaemia?

Anaemia, or a low blood count is when you have a low haemoglobin level. Haemoglobin is used to carry oxygen around your body.

What are the symptoms of anaemia?

Patients with anaemia may look pale, feel tired, short of breath or even have chest pain. Sometimes anaemia has no symptoms at all. Your Haematologist will assess your blood tests to decide what other tests might be needed.

What causes anaemia?

Common causes of anaemia include dietary deficiencies such as iron, vitamin B12 or folate deficiency, or loss of iron such as in bleeding. Anaemia can sometimes be due to a bone marrow problem where not enough blood is being produced by the bone marrow. Anaemia can occasionally be due to your body inappropriately destroying your blood cells which is sometimes a problem with your immune system. Your doctor will assess which of these causes is most likely and tell you which test is needed to confirm this.

What tests will I need?

Your Haematologist will usually order some basic blood tests to confirm that you have anaemia, including a blood film (where a scientist reports on the size and shape of your red blood cells, and any other visible abnormalities in the other cell types), plus tests to check your iron, vitamin B12 and folic acid levels. A blood test for immune destruction of red blood cells and sometimes other specialised blood tests will be ordered. Sometimes your doctor will recommend a bone marrow biopsy if the underlying cause might be a problem in your bone marrow. Urine tests can also be useful for the diagnosis of some types of anaemia.

How is anaemia treated?

Treatment of anaemia varies depending on which problem is causing the anaemia. Sometimes patients need replacement of blood using a blood transfusion if their blood count is very low. Sometimes iron replacement, or vitamin B12 or folic acid replacement is required. If the underlying problem is in the bone marrow, treatment of that problem will often cause the anaemia to resolve. Destruction of red blood cells by the immune system may require special treatment to stop this process occurring. Sometimes you need special management of your iron levels if destruction of red blood cells is causing excess iron to accumulate in your tissues. Your Haematologist will discuss the recommended treatment, its risks and benefits with you.

My doctor says I need a blood transfusion - where can I learn more?

To learn more about blood transfusions, click here.

My doctor says I need an iron infusion - where can I learn more?

For more information about iron, click here.

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