Symptoms due to anaemia are caused by the reduced amount of oxygen in the body.
- Common symptoms include tiredness, having little energy (lethargy), feeling faint, and becoming easily breathless.
- Less common symptoms include headaches, heartbeats suddenly becoming noticeable (palpitations), altered taste and ringing in the ears (tinnitus).
- You may look pale.
Other symptoms may include numbness is your hands and feet. Some people may also have depression.
The tests include
- A full blood count. This is to check the level of haemoglobin in your blood and how many of each of the different types of blood cell you have. It will also check the size of your red cells.
- Vitamin B12, iron and folate. The levels of each of these will be measured to see if you have reduced levels.
- A blood film. This involves looking at your blood under a microscope to check the size and shape of your red blood cells. It will also assess the different white cells that are present.
You may need to have further tests to help identify the cause of your anaemia.
If you’re not getting enough folate in your diet, your GP will give you advice on how to get more. He or she may refer you to see a dietitian. Good sources of folate include:
Green vegetables, such as spinach, kale and broccoli
Beans, such as blackeye beans
Poultry and pork
If you're drinking too much alcohol, your GP will suggest you reduce your intake and may offer you support to achieve this.
Your GP may advise you to take folic acid supplements. You can buy supplements over-the-counter from a pharmacy or your GP may prescribe them for you. Before you start, he or she will check your levels of vitamin B12 in your blood. This is because although folic acid supplements can help you to feel better, they may hide an underlying vitamin B12 deficiency. If this happens, you may develop problems with your nervous system.
Folate comes in a synthetic (artificial) form called folic acid. This is a water-soluble vitamin that your body can use instead of folate. You will usually need to take 5 milligrams (mg) per day, for at least four months. Some people may need to take folic acid for a long time, sometimes for the rest of their life. Always read the patient information leaflet that comes with your supplements and if you have any questions, ask your GP or pharmacist for advice.
If you take folic acid to treat anaemia, your GP will monitor your blood count and folate level. You will have a blood test about eight weeks after you start taking supplements. You will then have another blood test at the end of your treatment to confirm that you responded to it.