You have fewer red blood cells than normal, OR you have less haemoglobin than normal in each red blood cell.

In either case, a reduced amount of oxygen is carried around in the bloodstream.

What are the symptoms of anaemia
  • Common symptoms are due to the reduced amount of oxygen in the body.

These include tiredness, having little energy (lethargy), feeling faint, and becoming easily breathless.

  • Less common symptoms include headaches, a thumping heart (palpitations), altered taste, and ringing in the ears (tinnitus).
  • You may look pale.
  • Various other symptoms may develop, depending on the underlying cause of the anaemia.
What are the causes of anaemia

Lack of iron is the most common cause of anaemia in the UK. This is called iron-deficiency anaemia. If you eat a normal balanced diet, it usually contains enough iron. The separate leaflet called Iron-deficiency Anaemia will provide more information regarding an iron-rich diet.

The following are some reasons that may lead to a lack of iron resulting in iron-deficiency anaemia:

  • Pregnancy or childhood growth spurts are times when you need more iron than usual. The amount of iron that you eat during these times may not be enough.
  • Heavy menstrual periods. The amount of iron that you eat may not be enough to replace the amount that you lose with the bleeding each month.
  • Poor absorption of iron may occur with some gut diseases - for example, coeliac disease and Crohn's disease.
  • Bleeding from the gut (intestines). Some conditions of the gut can bleed enough to cause anaemia. You may not be aware of losing blood this way. The bleeding may be slow or intermittent, and you can pass blood out with your stools (faeces) without noticing.
  • If you eat a poor or restricted diet, it may not contain enough iron.