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How to manage anaemia

Anaemia: How to manage it

Anaemia is a condition in which sufferers have a lower than average red blood cell count, which is measured by the decrease in the amount of haemoglobin.

There are many different types and each has its own cause. Anaemia can be temporary or long term, and symptoms can range from mild to severe. The most common reasons are: the potential loss of blood, poor nutrition, disease, medication reactions and various problems of the bone marrow. However, iron deficiency anaemia is more common in women who have heavy periods. 

This is because women lose a few tablespoons of blood during the menstrual cycle, but it is quickly regained with iron supplements and a healthy diet.

How is anaemia diagnosed?

To diagnose it, your doctor will do various blood tests. You will be tested to determine the size of your red blood cells.

Diagnostic tests are done to determine the cause. Often, the first test a doctor will do is to diagnose anaemia is a complete blood count (CBC), explains HOACNY. This test measures many different parts of your blood. It evaluates your haemoglobin and haematocrit levels. Haemoglobin is the iron-rich protein in red blood cells that carry oxygen to the body.

Treatment

Anaemia treatment depends on what caused it in the first place. However, the best and most common management for anaemia sufferers according to Mayo Clinic are:

  • To follow a well-balanced diet;
  • Avoid suspect medication;
  • In some cases, a bone marrow transplant;
  • Folic acid supplements;
  • Steroids to help suppress your immune system’s 
  • attack;
  • Increase your consumption of vitamin C; and
  • Blood transfusions.

In addition, specific treatments or management plans vary according to the cause of the anaemia.

Iron deficiency anaemia

Treatment for this form of the condition involves taking iron supplements and changing your diet. Iron deficiency is usually caused by blood loss. Except when the blood loss is a result of menstruation, the source of the bleeding must be located and stopped. This may involve surgery.

Vitamin deficiency anaemia

A lack of folic acid and vitamin C can be treated with dietary supplements. It is also advised to adjust your diet to include an abundance of nutrient-dense foods. If you have trouble absorbing vitamin B-12 from the food you eat, you might need vitamin B-12 shots instead. This sends the vitamin straight to the bloodstream.

Anaemia of chronic disease

There is no official treatment for this type of anaemia, but doctors generally focus on treating the underlying condition. If symptoms escalate, a blood transfusion or injections of a synthetic hormone usually produced by your kidneys called erythropoietin might help stimulate red blood cell production and ease fatigue.

Aplastic anaemia

Treatment for this anaemia can include blood transfusions or a bone marrow transplant.

Anaemias associated with bone marrow disease

Medication, chemotherapy or a bone marrow transplant might be necessary in this case.

Haemolytic anaemia

This anaemia has several potential causes. Depending on the cause of your haemolytic anaemia, you could be referred to a vascular specialist. Using antibiotics to treat infections and taking drugs that suppress your immune system, which could be attacking your red blood cells.

Sickle cell anaemia

The treatment of sickle cell anaemia may include oxygen, pain relievers, and oral and intravenous fluids to reduce pain and prevent complications. Blood transfusions, folic acid supplements and antibiotics might be recommended. In most cases, a cancer drug called hydroxyurea is used to treat sickle cell anaemia.

Thalassaemia

Most forms of thalassaemia are mild and require no treatment. More severe forms of thalassaemia generally require blood transfusions, folic acid supplements, medication and the removal of the spleen, or a blood and bone marrow stem cell transplant.

In a recent medical article by Cleveland Clinic; in the event that your anaemia is caused by a genetic disorder, a bone marrow transplant might be needed.

In some cases, anaemia is linked to cancer, both in terms of it being a symptom and in terms of cancer treatment. Both radiation and chemotherapy can cause anaemia. In these instances, it might be necessary to stop further cancer treatment until the anaemia has improved through taking iron supplements, blood transfusions, getting essential B vitamins or getting shots of drugs to stimulate your body to produce erythropoietin (EPO).

Anaemia also happens to affect about half of all people with active lupus. The most common symptom is fatigue. This is because the average red blood cell lives only 120 days and must continuously be produced by the bone marrow. The most common explanation for anaemia in people with active lupus is reduced red cell production. This may be owing to a variety of causes, including:

  • Inflammation;
  • Inadequate erythropoietin;
  • Iron deficiency; and
  • Loss of bone marrow.

Although this could be a lifelong treatment, iron deficiency anaemia symptoms should start to go away after about a week of taking iron supplements. 

Having trustworthy medical insurance at your side is critical when you need professional treatment for diseases or symptoms. This is why Affinity Health aims to make affordable healthcare a reality for every South African.

Affinity Health is also very passionate about quality and accessible healthcare.

What if I don’t have medical insurance?

Without medical insurance cover, you will be required to pay for private care. This can be devastating on your finances as these treatments will need to be paid out of your own pocket. Alternatively, you could use public or government facilities.

When you have access to private healthcare there are scheduled appointments, which means no more waiting in long queues, putting you at risk of contracting even more illnesses.

Affinity Health gives all members access to over 5000 practices and 2000 dentist rooms on its provider network.