Have a symptom?
See what questions
a doctor would ask.
Diseases » Anemia » Introduction


Anemia: Introduction

Anemia is a general term for the most common blood disorder in the U.S. Anemia occurs when there are too few red blood cells in the blood. Anemia is a symptom of a wide variety of mild to serious diseases, disorders and conditions. Anemia can result from nutritional deficiencies, trauma, hemorrhage, transfusion reaction, malabsorption, chronic diseases, inherited diseases, autoimmune diseases, malignancy, and treatments for malignancy, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Anemia can occur when the body does not produce enough red blood cells, such as in vitamin B12 deficiency. Anemia can also occur when the body destroys old red blood cells faster than it produces now ones, such as in hemolytic anemia and sickle cell disease. Anemia can also occur when there is a deficiency of hemoglobin in the red blood cells, such as in iron deficiency anemia and thalassemia. Any disease, disorder or condition that causes heavy bleeding (hemorrhage) can also cause anemia. These can include postpartum hemorrhage, postoperative hemorrhage, gastrointestinal bleeding, peptic ulcer, colorectal cancer, ulcerative colitis, ruptured aneurysm, and trauma that causes hemorrhage.

The most important element of red blood cells is called hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein that carries vital oxygen from the lungs through the bloodstream to the cells, tissues and organs of the body. Many symptoms of anemia are due to a decreased amount of hemoglobin in the blood. These symptoms can include dizziness, shortness of breath, weakness, palpitations, fatigue, and fainting. Hypotension and pallor or pale skin are also common symptoms.

There are also many other symptoms that can accompany the symptoms of anemia, depending on the disease, disorder or condition that is causing anemia. Complications of anemia can be serious, even life-threatening. Underlying diseases, disorders or conditions of anemia can also cause complications. For more details about symptoms and complications, see symptoms of anemia.

Diagnosing anemia and its underlying cause begins with taking a thorough personal and family medical history, including symptoms, and completing a physical examination.

Anemia can be generally diagnosed with a blood test called a complete blood count (CBC). A complete blood count can determine the number, size, and color of the red blood cells and the amount of hemoglobin they hold.

Making a diagnosis also includes performing a variety of other tests to help to diagnose the underlying disease, condition or disorder causing anemia. This may include a blood test that measures ferritin, a test for vitamin B12 deficiency and tests to determine if a person has sickle cell trait or thalassemia trait.

A digital rectal examination and testing for fecal occult blood are also generally performed. A digital rectal examination involves inserting a finger into the rectum to feel for any abnormalities and obtain a sample of stool to test for the presence of blood, which may not be visible to the naked eye. If blood is present in stool, the cause of anemia may be a disease or condition that causes bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract, a common cause of anemia.

In this case, making a diagnosis of the underlying cause of anemia includes performing special imaging tests to see a picture of the inside of the gastrointestinal tract. These may consist of some combination of tests, such as a barium X-ray, CT scan, MRI, and a variety of tests using video imaging technology, such as sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy.

Sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy involves passing a small flexible tube fitted with a camera through the anus into the colon to look for abnormal areas and sites of bleeding. The upper areas of the gastrointestinal tract, such as the esophagus and stomach, can be examined in a similar way through the mouth and esophagus in an endoscopy procedure.

A diagnosis of anemia and its cause can easily be delayed or missed because symptoms can be similar to symptoms of other conditions. In addition, tiny amounts of bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract may not be noticeable for long periods of time. For information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of anemia.

Treatment of anemia involves diagnosing and treating the underlying disease, disorder or condition that is causing it. Some conditions can be easily and successfully treated and cured, while others may require more intensive treatment and may not have an optimal prognosis. Treatment may or may not include blood transfusion. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of anemia. ...more »

Anemia: Anemia refers to a low red blood cell count. Hallmark symptoms include fatigue and pallor (pale skin). Mild forms of anemia may go undiagnosed. Anemia is also a common complication of pregnancy and it is important to diagnose it in pregnancy, because of the high risk to the mother of maternal bleeding in childbirth. There are various types of anemia and causes of anemia. ...more »

Anemia: Symptoms

Symptoms of anemia can vary greatly from person to person, depending on the severity of anemia and the underlying cause. Symptoms can be mild to severe and can include symptoms of complications, such as hypotension and shock.

In anemia, there are a low number of red blood cells in the blood. Red blood cells contain the protein hemoglobin, which is vital to carrying ...more symptoms »

Anemia: Treatments

Treatment plans for anemia are individualized depending on the underlying cause, the severity, the presence of coexisting diseases, the age of the patient, and other factors. Treatment involves a multifaceted plan that addresses the underlying cause, such as sickle cell disease or Vitamin B12 deficiency.

For example, iron deficiency anemia and ...more treatments »

Anemia: Misdiagnosis

Diagnosing anemia and its underlying cause may be delayed or missed because in some cases anemia develops gradually and the symptoms may not be severe enough for a person to seek medical care. In addition, some people may believe that some symptoms of anemia, such as confusion, dizziness, and falls, are a normal part of aging. Mild symptoms may also be attributed ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Anemia

Treatments for Anemia

Home Diagnostic Testing

Home medical testing related to Anemia:

Wrongly Diagnosed with Anemia?

Anemia: Related Patient Stories

Anemia: Deaths

Read more about Deaths and Anemia.

Alternative Treatments for Anemia

Alternative treatments or home remedies that have been listed in various sources as possibly beneficial for Anemia may include:

Types of Anemia

Curable Types of Anemia

Possibly curable types of Anemia include:

Rare Types of Anemia:

Rare types of Anemia include:

Anemia: Complications

Review possible medical complications related to Anemia:

Causes of Anemia

More information about causes of Anemia:

Disease Topics Related To Anemia

Research the causes of these diseases that are similar to, or related to, Anemia:

Anemia: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:

Misdiagnosis and Anemia

Unnecessary hysterectomies due to undiagnosed bleeding disorder in women: The bleeding disorder called Von Willebrand's disease is more »

Anemia undiagnosed in pregnancy: The onset of anemia (low red blood cells) in pregnancy is sometimes overlooked, despite it being a well-known complication of pregnancy. The problem may be that the main symptom, i.e. fatigue, is also more »

ADHD diagnosis overlooked hidden nutritional disorder: The book "A Dose of Sanity" reports on a case of a boy diagnosed with ADHD and more »

Cluster of diseases with difficult diagnosis issues: There is a well-known list of medical conditions that are all somewhat difficult to diagnose, and all can present in a variety of different more »

Rare type of breast cancer without a lump: There is a less common form of breast cancer called inflammatory breast cancer. Its symptoms can be an inflammation of the breast tissue, such as with a breast more »

Pituitary conditions often undiagnosed cause of symptoms: There are a variety of symptoms that can be caused by a pituitary disorder (see symptoms more »

Vitamin B12 deficiency under-diagnosed: The condition of Vitamin B12 deficiency is a possible misdiagnosis of various conditions, such as multiple sclerosis (see symptoms of multiple sclerosis). See more »

Anemia: Research Doctors & Specialists

Research related physicians and medical specialists:

Other doctor, physician and specialist research services:

Hospitals & Clinics: Anemia

Research quality ratings and patient safety measures for medical facilities in specialties related to Anemia:

Choosing the Best Hospital: More general information, not necessarily in relation to Anemia, on hospital performance and surgical care quality:

Anemia: Rare Types

Rare types of diseases and disorders in related medical categories:

Anemia: Animations

Prognosis for Anemia

Research about Anemia

Visit our research pages for current research about Anemia treatments.

Clinical Trials for Anemia

The US based website lists information on both federally and privately supported clinical trials using human volunteers.

Some of the clinical trials listed on for Anemia include:

Statistics for Anemia

Anemia: Broader Related Topics

Anemia Message Boards

Related forums and medical stories:

User Interactive Forums

Read about other experiences, ask a question about Anemia, or answer someone else's question, on our message boards:

Article Excerpts about Anemia

Anemia in Kidney Disease and Dialysis: NIDDK (Excerpt)

If your blood is low in red blood cells, you have anemia. Red blood cells carry oxygen (O2) to tissues and organs throughout your body and enable them to use the energy from food. Without oxygen, these tissues and organs--particularly the heart and brain--may not do their jobs as well as they should. For this reason, if you have anemia, you may tire easily and look pale. Anemia may also contribute to heart problems. (Source: excerpt from Anemia in Kidney Disease and Dialysis: NIDDK)

Kidney Failure Glossary: NIDDK (Excerpt)

The condition of having too few red blood cells. Healthy red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body. If the blood is low on red blood cells, the body does not get enough oxygen. People with anemia may be tired and pale and may feel their heartbeat change. Anemia is common in people with chronic renal failure or those on dialysis . (Source: excerpt from Kidney Failure Glossary: NIDDK)

Anemia: NWHIC (Excerpt)

Anemia is a process, not a disease, and is the most common disorder of the blood. Anemia occurs when the amount of red blood cells or hemoglobin (oxygen-carrying protein in the blood) in the blood becomes low, causing the tissues of the body to be deprived of oxygen-rich blood. It is characterized by a reduction in size, number, or color of red blood cells (RBC) which results in reduced oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. The blood of an anemic person has trouble carrying oxygen to tissues and organs, in a sense, become "starved" of oxygen and without oxygen, the tissues cannot produce energy to function. In order for the body to stay healthy, organs and tissues need a steady supply of oxygen. (Source: excerpt from Anemia: NWHIC)

Definitions of Anemia:

A reduction in the number of red blood cells per cu mm, the amount of hemoglobin in 100 ml of blood, and the volume of packed red blood cells per 100 ml of blood. Clinically, anemia represents a reduction in the oxygen-transporting capacity of a designated volume of blood, resulting from an imbalance between blood loss (through hemorrhage or hemolysis) and blood production. Signs and symptoms of anemia may include pallor of the skin and mucous membranes, shortness of breath, palpitations of the heart, soft systolic murmurs, lethargy, and fatigability. --2004 - (Source - Diseases Database)

A deficiency of red blood cells - (Source - WordNet 2.1)


By using this site you agree to our Terms of Use. Information provided on this site is for informational purposes only; it is not intended as a substitute for advice from your own medical team. The information on this site is not to be used for diagnosing or treating any health concerns you may have - please contact your physician or health care professional for all your medical needs. Please see our Terms of Use.

Home | Symptoms | Diseases | Diagnosis | Videos | Tools | Forum | About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Site Map | Advertise