advertisement
Updated 25 January 2019

Can anaemia cause death?

Delaying your treatment for anaemia could be fatal to your heart.

Iron-deficiency anaemia is the most prevalent nutritional deficiency among developed and developing regions globally. There's a greater prevalence among pregnant women, infants and the poor. Many people are unaware that they suffer from anaemia let alone the dangers if left untreated.

A person with this deficiency has a decreased amount of red blood cells that is made up of the iron-rich molecule haemoglobin. Not only does it give blood it's colour, but it's also responsible for the transportation of oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.

Untreated anaemia can cause serious health problems

According to the Office on Women's Health, if anaemia is left untreated it can cause serious health problems. Too little oxygen flowing to the body can be detrimental to human organs. As a result, anaemic patients’ hearts must work harder to compensate for the lack of haemoglobin, which can harm the heart. 

There are many causes of anaemia. These include:

  • Iron lost through bleeding
  • Increased need for iron during pregnancy
  • Not eating enough food that contains iron
  • Problems absorbing iron

For anaemia to be treated correctly, necessary precautions can be made to avoid the underlying condition.

  • Treat the cause of your anaemia
  • Supplement with iron-rich foods
  • Consume foods that may help your body absorb iron
  • Choose healthier food options
  • Avoid drinking tea and coffee with your meals
  • Consult with your doctor if you're taking calcium pills

Pregnant women can also be affected if their anaemia is left untreated, causing low-birth weight and preterm delivery, and impairment of intellectual and motor development in children. When anaemia is more significant, dyspnoea (shortness of breath) and fatigue may occur, reports the Department of Medicine, Ohio University in Ohio.

Severe iron deficiency can cause left ventricular dysfunction (LVD) and overt heart failure, which can cause death. 

According to a journal entry published in the Texas Heart Institute, heart failure is caused by structural or functional cardiac disorders that impair the ability on or both of the ventricles to fill with or eject blood. Left ventricular dysfunction is a result of iron deficiency, particularly when a patient's haemoglobin levels are lower than 5 grams per decilitre (g/dL). 

Symptoms of left ventricular dysfunction to look out for: 

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Reduced ability to exercise
  • Persistent coughing 
  • Swelling in legs, ankles and feet 

Image credit: iStock 

 
NEXT ON HEALTH24X
advertisement