Anaemia is a lack of blood – or, to be more precise, a diminished ability to carry oxygen in the blood due to a lack of the oxygen carrying molecule, haemoglobin.

There are lots of different types of anaemia, but in Norfolk the most likely cause is due a lack of iron in the body. This can occasionally be due to a lack of input - that is because of a poor diet or due to the inability to absorb iron that is taken in the food (this is known as malabsorbtion). This is fairly rare, but it goes without saying that it is important to have a balanced diet to ensure you eat enough iron, vitamins and minerals to stay healthy.

Being anaemic can cause lots of non-specific symptoms, such as breathlessness, becoming easily tired on exertion, palpitations or dizziness. All of these are due the low haemoglobin.

The most common cause of anaemia in women is losing blood because of heavy periods. This can be prolonged over months and years, and if the blood loss continues then, over time, the amount of iron taken in food may not be sufficient to cover the amount lost every month, thus leading to what is known as iron deficiency anaemia.

Other causes are less common, but should not be forgotten. Certain drugs can cause an inflammation of the lining of the stomach, such as ibuprofen and aspirin, and this can lead to blood being lost that way. If this goes on for long enough, then again, iron deficiency can occur. It is important to always take these drugs after a meal, and never on an empty stomach, as food helps to protect against such inflammation and bleeding.

The iron tablets that your GP has put your wife on will help replenish the stores of iron and allow normal haemoglobin production, and so she should start feeling better soon.

As always, if you feel unwell then a trip to your GP is advisable where they may ask you a few questions, and examine you. If they feel it necessary a simple blood test can help determine if you are anaemic, and if you are, what the cause might be.

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