7 Types Of Anaemia and their Symptoms



Last month my period didn’t show up. I wasn’t too scared that I was pregnant because of my religious condom use but this line from Njeri’s article kept haunting my thoughts.

you do that urine test after your periods have been late for 2 months and discover that you are pregnant!

I kept calm and waited for month two. 20th rolled around and still my Aunt Flo-w was nowhere to be seen. I kept calm-ish and went out. Getting roaring drunk to avoid the budding panic obviously wasn’t a good idea. I ended up on Ngong’ road with no handbag or phone *cries for my mummy*. Either way, I slept through the 21st and 22nd preferring to bury all thoughts of a baby along with the thoughts of who the father could be. 23rd comes around and I decide it’s time to go get that pregnancy test. Thank God I had to pee before I left my house, the disaster I averted would have needed divine intervention to get over. Read: The Japanese flag remodeled onto my favorite white dress.

So now, what’s PMS like when you’ve got a 2 month backlog of uterine debris oozing out of you? Well, usually my flow is a total nightmare. I go on and on for about 8 days and go through two packs of Kotex super 16s. The fatigue is crazy and the bloating would power a hot air balloon to the moon, AND that’s before we even start the bleeding. During my period, it’s a devilish alternation of the stomach runs and constipation in addition to the above. This time though I’ve noticed that blinding headaches, dizziness, tingling in my feet and wobbliness while walking have been added to the repertoire of ways my body has chosen to celebrate the lack of a zygote inside me.

I was worried until I remembered that this has happened to me before. A look at my bone white palms confirmed my informal diagnosis. I am anaemic. Quick, quick to Google to reaffirm my suspicions. What did I find out? Well…

First, this is what it is

a condition marked by a deficiency of red blood cells or of hemoglobin in the blood, resulting in pallor and weariness

Next, there are more than 400 types of anaemia all with different symptoms and treatments dependent of the cause of said condition. I will list 7 of the most common.

Source: WebMD Medical Reference

1. Anaemia caused by iron deficiency:

  • Hunger or craving for strange substances such as paper, ice, or dirt (a condition called pica)
  • Upward curvature of the nails, referred to as koilonychia
  • Soreness of the mouth with cracks at the corners
  • A smooth or sore tongue

With iron deficiency anaemia your doctor may recommend iron supplements that contain the ferrous form of iron, which your body can absorb easily. Always consult with your doctor before taking iron supplements. Excess iron intake can be harmful. Symptoms of iron overload include fatigue, vomiting, diarrhoea, headaches, irritability and joint problems.

2. Anaemia caused by vitamin B-12 deficiency:

  • A tingling, “pins and needles” sensation in the hands or feet
  • Loss of sense of touch
  • An unsteady, wobbly gait and difficulty walking
  • Clumsiness and stiffness of the arms and legs
  • Dementia

For vitamin B-12 and folate deficiency anaemia, the treatment depends on the cause of the deficiency. If your body stores are depleted of vitamin B-12, your doctor is most likely to prescribe vitamin B-12 injections. If the vitamin B12 levels are borderline low then your doctor may try oral tablets in a high dose first to see your response. There is a good chance that many of the symptoms associated with this type of deficiency will improve very quickly once the body is provided with the needed B-12.

3. Anaemia caused by chronic lead poisoning:

Lead poisoning is treated by discontinuing exposure to lead and administering amedicine that binds and draws lead out of the body. Where the household is suspected as the source of lead poisoning, calling the local environmental health department is essential. Old lead water piping used to be a problem in older houses.

4. Anaemia caused by chronic red blood cell destruction (haemolysis):

5. Anaemia caused by sudden red blood cell destruction (haemolysis):

  • Abdominal pain
  • Brown or red urine
  • Jaundice (yellow skin and eyes)
  • Small bruises under the skin
  • Seizures
  • Symptoms of kidney failure

Anaemia caused by increased red blood cell destruction

The treatment of haemolytic anaemia may be tailored to the underlying cause. It is important to consider altering or stopping any medication or agent that is causing the condition. Adding folate supplements is often needed as levels drop. Some patients may require blood transfusion or iron replacement therapy but it is a complex decision as to whether either is given.

6. Sickle cell anaemia:

  • Fatigue
  • Susceptibility to infection
  • Delayed growth and development in children
  • Episodes of severe pain, especially in the joints, abdomen and limbs

Sickle cell anaemia treatment. The drug hydroxycarbamide is sometimes recommended if a person has recurring sickle cell crisis episodes. It appears to stimulate the formation of an alternate form of haemoglobin that isn’t susceptible to the sickling. This medicine may help to limit the number of episodes and the severity.

When to seek medical advice

Seek medical advice if notice any of these possible signs or symptoms of anaemia, or if you suffer any of the following:

  • Persistent fatigue, breathlessness, rapid heart rate, pale skin, or any other symptoms of anaemia
  • Very heavy menstrual periods
  • Symptoms of an ulcer, gastritis, haemorrhoids, or colorectal cancer
  • Concern about environmental exposure to lead
  • A hereditary anaemia runs in your family and you would like genetic counselling before having a child

I’m headed to hospital when I’m done writing this because a few of those symptoms apply to me. Before I do though I’m having a healthy helping of liver and spinach just so I don’t collapse on a Nairobi street. Being robbed twice in 3 days is not one of my life goals. Wish me luck.

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