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Anemia: Symptoms & Signs

  • Medical Author: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

Anemia is the condition of having less than the normal number of red blood cells or less than the normal quantity of hemoglobin in the blood. The oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood is, as a result, decreased. People with anemia may experience the following symptoms and signs:

  • Feel tired or lightheaded (sometimes with fainting)
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue easily
  • Have decreased energy
  • Appear pale
  • Develop palpitations or rapid heart rate
  • Experience shortness of breath

Children with chronic anemia are prone to infections and learning problems.

In general, anemia has four basic categories of causes. Sometimes more than one of these problems are causing the anemia:

  • Bleeding (hemorrhage)
  • Excessive destruction of red blood cells (hemolysis)
  • Underproduction of red blood cells (such as from bone marrow disorders)
  • Not enough normal hemoglobin

Women are more likely than men to have anemia because of the loss of blood from menstruation. Iron-deficiency anemia is common and in adults is most often due to chronic blood loss. This can be from menstruation or from gastrointestinal bleeding (which can be very subtle). Anemia in children is due mainly to inadequate iron in the diet. Anemia is common from gastrointestinal bleeding caused by medications, including such common drugs as aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin).

Related Symptoms & Signs

REFERENCE:

Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/13/2017
Medically Reviewed on 4/13/2017

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