N.A.S.S Dingwall Branch Information Page

Anaemia and its Causes

Anemia: Anemia is another complication we can suffer from and defined as being a shortage of red blood cells or red blood cells with a low haemoglobin content. This is caused by internal bleeding from long term use of NSAIDs. Low blood pressure is sometimes associated with AS and can be a problem from time to time, it can also be from poor absorption of vitamins ( Iron, B12, Folic Acid) these can be attributed to Colitis, IBD and ulcers associated with AS.

Anaemia is a term used to describe a deficiency in the red blood cell count.

Blood is a fluid composed of cells (red cells, white cells, and platelets) and serum (clear fluid). Red and white blood cells are produced in the bone marrow. Red blood cells, which contain haemoglobin, are required to carry oxygen in the body. In a situation where the number of red blood cells is low, the body will be forced to operate under the stress of inadequate oxygen delivery. Some compensation is possible, but only as long as a critical number of red blood cells remains.

Anaemia is seen commonly in association with a number of disease processes, and can be secondary to a wide variety of conditions.


  1. IRON DEFICIENCY ANAEMIA (low dietary iron or blood loss from trauma, heavy menstrual cycles, blood in stools, or blood in vomit)
  2. B-12 VITAMIN or FOLIC ACID DEFICIENCY (those with a poor diet and alcohol abusers) also known as pernicious anaemia.
  3. ANAEMIA OF CHRONIC DISEASE (This is a low blood count secondary to an underlying illness somewhere in the body. This is typically cancer or kidney failure.
  4. HAEMOLYTIC ANAEMIA (anaemia secondary to the overly rapid destruction of red blood cells by an autoimmune illness.
  5. APLASTIC ANAEMIA (bone marrow fails to produce an adequate number of cells secondary to leukaemia, or some other bone marrow disease).
  6. HYPOPLASTIC ANAEMIA (suppression of red blood cell production through a drug side effect, seen with some chemotherapeutic agents)
  7. HEREDITARY ANAEMIAS (sickle cell disease, thalassaemia,

Common symptoms include: fatigue, faintness or fainting, exertional shortness of breath, and palpitations. Patients may appear pale, with no red blood vessels in the "whites" of your eyes, and no clearly defined red lines on your palm (just imagine someone trying to read your palm and the lines are almost gone). Look for black, tarry stools which indicate blood loss in stools. Any vomiting of "coffee grounds" appearing material should be considered BLOOD until proven otherwise.

Evaluation will include blood tests (i.e. blood counts, vitamin B-12 levels, iron levels, and blood chemistry). A chest x-ray may be done to look for any complications of anaemia. Physical examination, with testing of stools for occult blood, may uncover a potential source of slow chronic blood loss (which may be a clue to a gastrointestinal cancer). Bone marrow biopsy and aspiration may be needed in cases of unexplained anaemia

Treatment includes transfusion with blood products if the anaemia is life threatening. Uncovering the cause for the anaemia will dictate the course of treatment. Remember, any questionable gastrointestinal blood loss needs to be investigated by a physician.

The stool test kits available at your local pharmacy can detect occult blood in the stool. It is a wise health practice to test any stools that appear dark in colour. Some foods, medications (Pepto-Bismol), and iron pills, can colour the stools black. This will not affect the accuracy of the stool testing kits.



Chines angelica root may be helpful. Take as a tea, tincture, or decoction. Caution: Angelica should not be taken in pregnancy without professional advice. It may cause a skin rash when handled in sunlight.


Lavender is helpful where the condition is associated with palpitations and dizziness.

Massage with the essential oil of Roman chamomile.