Am I anaemic?

Q: I am a 36-year-old female. My complete blood count shows that my haemoglobin is 11.7 g/dl and the rest of the values are in the normal range. But my RDW is 15.7% and the blood report reads that it is normocytic, normochromic with mild anisocytosis. What does this mean? Am I anaemic? Do I need to worry about it?

A:Anaemia is a condition in which the number of red blood cells (RBC) or the amount of haemoglobin is below normal for age and sex of the individual. It is defined as a decrease in red blood cell mass and is usually discovered and quantified by measurement of the RBC count, haemoglobin (Hb) concentration, and haematocrit (Hct). Anaemia is suggested in males with Hb levels less than 13 g/dl and in females with Hb levels less than 12 g/dl (less than 11.5 g/dl in pregnant women). It may be due to decreased production of red blood cells, blood loss (haemorrhage) or red cell breakdown (haemolysis). Anaemia is a symptom of disease that requires investigation to determine the underlying cause. It is twice as common in women than in men, especially during the childbearing years due to menstrual blood loss and pregnancies. Automated cell counters provide information regarding the size, shape and Hb content of red cells. The red cell distribution width (RDW) is a parameter that gives information about the variability in the size of red cells. Normally, the RBCs are of uniform size with minimum variability. It is more frequently elevated in iron deficiency anaemia and may often be the first parameter to hint this. As your Hb is 11.7 g/dl, you are mildly anaemic and mild anisocytosis (variability in red cell size) is reflected in the mildly raised RDW. Please consult your doctor and make sure that you are not losing excess blood during your menses and, if needed, start taking an iron supplement.

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