According to the World Health Organization, anaemia affects 1.62 billion people in the world, which accounts for about 28% of the global population. Anaemia is a medical condition where the quality or the quantity of red blood cells in the body reduces, leading to a lack of oxygen-rich blood. Anaemia can occur due to many reasons such as iron deficiency, blood loss or pregnancy.
In most anaemia cases, the person lacks iron in their body, therefore the anaemia is known as iron-deficiency anaemia. Iron is essential for the body as it is used for the production of red blood cells and haemoglobin, which are needed for oxygen delivery to various organs of the body. A person with anaemia presents with various symptoms out of which some are very common while others are rare.
Most common signs of anaemia
In most cases, a person who has anaemia usually presents with symptoms such as:
1. Pale skin
2. Fatigue (extreme tiredness)
4. Difficulty in breathing
5. Rapid heartbeat
Uncommon signs of anaemia
1. Hair loss: We generally lose 100 strands of hair in a day but the hair follicles grow many of them back. But in the case of iron deficiency anaemia, the hair follicles go into the resting phase due to the lack of oxygen. This makes the hair fall out faster with no new hair growing back until the anaemia is treated.
2. Craving ice: It has been seen in many cases of iron deficiency anaemia that the person starts craving ice. This condition is called pica, where the person craves non-food items. Pica for ice is known to be a sign of iron deficiency in the body.
3. Beefy-red tongue: One of the reasons why people crave ice is to soothe the tongue which is red, inflamed and swollen. Medically known as glossitis, an inflamed tongue is a rare sign of iron-deficiency anaemia. The symptom can get worse and the person can have difficulty in chewing and swallowing. Along with the tongue, the person may present with cracked lips, cracks in the corners of the mouth and ulcers.
4. Abnormal nails: Kilonychia is a medical term used for the nails which appear spoon-shaped and have depressions in the centre. This condition is also prevalent in people with iron-deficiency anaemia. The person may also present with nails that are thin, brittle, and prone to cracking.
5. Sleep disturbances: Even after feeling tired and fatigued throughout the day, people with iron deficiency anaemia are unable to sleep peacefully. A condition called restless leg syndrome, where one has an irresistible urge to move their leg(s), is prevalent in people with iron deficiency anaemia. They might feel a pins and needles sensation in the legs mostly during the evening, making it difficult for the person to sleep at night. The person may feel irritated, tired and sleepy during the day.
6. Neurological symptoms: When the iron stores of the body are completely depleted, the body may start showing neurological symptoms such as anxiety, difficulty in concentrating, mood swings and even depression.
For more information, read our article on Anemia diet: what to eat, what not to eat in anaemia.
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