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Anemia: Symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment and prevention

Anemia: Symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment and prevention

Anemia can be prevented by consuming dark green leafy vegetables
Illustration showing anemia
Representational image | Illustration by Syalima M Das

Anemia is a common blood condition characterized by low red blood cells (RBCs) and/or a lower hemoglobin count than normal – For male, that would be between 13-17 mg/dl, for females, 12-16 mg/dl.  

Hemoglobin is an iron-rich protein (gives blood the red colour) that carries oxygen to the entire body. (Hemoglobin needs to be attached to RBCs to carry out its function.) Thus, anemic people have a reduced ability to carry oxygen to the rest of the body. 


It depends on the cause and severity of anemia. It is important to note that anemia is unnoticeable when mild, but symptoms worsen as the condition worsens. See a doctor if you notice: 

  • Fatigue, weakness, or lack of energy 
  • Pale or yellowish skin 
  • Irregular heartbeats 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Feeling cold 
  • Dizziness 
  • Headache or lightheadedness 


Broadly, there are three causes of anemia: Blood loss, lack of RBC formation and a rate of RBC destruction that is faster than its replacement. 

Apart from these, certain conditions that might cause anemia include: 

  • Vitamin deficiencies (folic acid, Vitamin B12) 
  • Low iron levels (iron deficiency anemia) 
  • Other blood conditions (sickle cell anemia, thalassemia) 
  • Pregnancy or heavy/irregular periods 
  • Stomach ulcers, colon cancer 
  • Parasite infestation (hookworm, whipworm) 
  • Underlying illness (liver ailment, kidney ailment, bone marrow cancer) 
  • Medications (cancer) 


Your doctor may assess medical history (fatigue, body aches, frequent headaches, skin and eye colour) and do a physical examination (heart rate, breathing rate, enlarged liver/spleen).
Additionally, a blood test to determine the hemoglobin, certain vitamins and iron levels, RBC count, and evaluating the shape and size of the RBCs could be advised to check the severity and cause of anemia. 

Treatment and prevention 

Diet modification can help manage anemia in mild cases, but intervention might be required in severe cases. 

Iron, folate, and vitamin B12 pills are generally prescribed along with diet. 

Consuming dark-green leafy vegetables (spinach, amaranths), whole grains, beans, nuts, meat, cereals, etc. in a combined and balanced way can help prevent being anemic.

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