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Anaemia: The condition of having less than the normal number of red blood cells or less than the normal quantity of hemoglobin in the blood. The oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood is, therefore, decreased.

Persons with anaemia may feel tired and fatigue easily, appear pale, develop palpitations and become unusually short of breath. Children with chronic anaemia are prone to infections and learning problems.

Anaemia has four basic causes. One or more of these causes must be operating to produce anaemia:

  • Hemorrhage -- bleeding
  • Hemolysis -- excessive destruction of red blood cells
  • Underproduction of red blood cells
  • Not enough normal hemoglobin

Women are more likely than men to have anaemia because of the loss of blood each month through menstruation. Iron deficiency anaemia is common and in adults is most often due to chronic blood loss.

This can be from menstruation or from small amounts of repeated bleeding (which can be very subtle) and in children is due mainly to not enough iron in the diet.

Anaemia is also often due to gastrointestinal bleeding caused by medications including such very common drugs as aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin).

There are many forms of anaemia, some of them common, others rare. They include, for example:

  • Aplastic anaemia
  • Benzene poisoning
  • Fanconi anaemia
  • Hemolytic disease of the newborn
  • Hereditary spherocytosis
  • Iron deficiency anaemia
  • Osteopetrosis
  • Pernicious anaemia
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Thalassemia
  • Myelodysplastic syndrome and a host of other bone marrow diseases.

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