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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: 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 to such conditions ...more misdiagnosis »

Causes of Anemia:

The following medical conditions are some of the possible causes of Anemia. There are likely to be other possible causes, so ask your doctor about your symptoms.

» Review Causes of Anemia: Causes | Symptom Checker » | Assessment Questionnaire »

Home Diagnostic Testing and Anemia

Home medical tests possibly related to Anemia:

Causes of Types of Anemia:

Review the causes of these more specific types of Anemia:

Review causes of types of Anemia in more specific categories:

Review causes of more specific types of Anemia:

Anemia: Symptom Checker

Listed below are some combinations of symptoms associated with Anemia, as listed in our database. Visit the Symptom Checker, to add and remove symptoms and research your condition.

Symptom Checker

Symptom Checker

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 ...Anemia Treatments

Some of the possible treatments listed in sources for treatment of Anemia may include:

Review further information on Anemia Treatments.

Alternative Treatments for Anemia

Alternative treatments or home remedies that have been listed as possibly helpful for Anemia may include:

Stories from Users for Anemia

Real-life user stories relating to Anemia:

Message Boards for Anemia

Symptom specific forums: The following patient stories in our interactive forums and message boards relate to Anemia or relevant symptoms:

Diagnostic tests for Anemia:

Various tests are used in the diagnosis of Anemia. Some of these are listed below :

  • Physical examination - looking for signs of anemia e.g. pallor of skin, nail beds and sclera of eyes, increased pulse rate, heart murmur and if severe swollen ankles and cardiac failure.
  • Signs of jaundice - e.g. yellow skin , yellow sclera; may indicate hemolytic anemia, pernicious anemia , alcoholic cirrhosis.
  • Looking for possible causes of anemia - e.g. signs of chronic liver failure , neurological signs suggesting possible pernicious anemia.
  • Blood tests - Full blood count looking at size of red blood cells which helps diagnose type of.
  • Anemia - e.g. if small size likely iron deficiency or thallasaemia ; if large cell size likely Vitamin B12 deficiency ,folate deficiency, drug toxicity; if normal cell size can be chronic disease , hemolysis, renal failure.
  • Hemoglobin level - to establish severity of anemia.
  • Bilirubin level - to detect jaundice.
  • more tests...»

Anemia: Animations

Medications or substances causing Anemia:

The following drugs, medications, substances or toxins are some of the possible causes of Anemia as a symptom. Always advise your doctor of any medications or treatments you are using, including prescription, over-the-counter, supplements, herbal or alternative treatments.

Drug interactions causing Anemia:

When combined, certain drugs, medications, substances or toxins may react causing Anemia as a symptom. Always advise your doctor of any medications or treatments you are using, including prescription, over-the-counter, supplements, herbal or alternative treatments.

  • Allopurinol and Vidarabine interaction
  • Zyloprim and Vidarabine interaction
  • BiCNU (Carmustine) and Tagamet (Cimetidine) interaction
  • Coumadin (Warfarin) and Advil (Ibuprofen) interaction
  • Coumadin (Warfarin) and Motrin (Ibuprofen) interaction
  • Coumadin (Warfarin) and Nuprinl (Ibuprofen) interaction
  • more interactions...»

Anemia: Comorbid Symptoms

Some of the comorbid or associated medical symptoms for Anemia may include these symptoms:

Causes of General Symptom Types

Research the causes of these more general types of symptom:

Causes of Similar Symptoms to Anemia

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

Assessment Questionnaire: Questions your doctor may ask (and why!)

During a consultation, your doctor will use various techniques to assess the symptom: Anemia. These will include a physical examination and possibly diagnostic tests. (Note: A physical exam is always done, diagnostic tests may or may not be performed depending on the suspected condition) Your doctor will ask several questions when assessing your condition. It is important to openly share any pertinent information to help your doctor make an accurate diagnosis.

It is also very important to bring an up-to-date list of all of your all medical conditions, medications including dosages, and names of numbers of any specialist you see.

Create your printable checklist here.

See Anemia Assessment Questionnaire (57 listings)

Anemia: Deaths

Read more about causes and Anemia deaths.

Misdiagnosis and Anemia

Unnecessary hysterectomies due to undiagnosed bleeding disorder in women: The bleeding disorder called Von Willebrand's disease is quite common in women, but often fails to be correctly diagnosed. 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 more »

ADHD diagnosis overlooked hidden nutritional disorder: The book "A Dose of Sanity" reports on a case of a boy diagnosed with ADHD and receiving Ritalin. His symptoms included tiredness, 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 severities. Diseases in this 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 more »

Pituitary conditions often undiagnosed cause of symptoms: There are a variety of symptoms that can be caused by a pituitary disorder (see symptoms of pituitary disorders). For example, fatigue, headache, weight gain, diabetes-like 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 symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency or misdiagnosis more »

Anemia: Research Related Doctors & Specialists

Other ways to find a doctor, or use doctor, physician and specialist online research services:

Hospitals & Clinics: Anemia

Research extensive quality ratings and patient safety measures for hospitals, clinics and medical facilities in health specialties related to Anemia:

Anemia: Related Rare Diseases

Rare types of medical conditions and diseases in related medical categories:

Anemia: Undiagnosed Conditions

Conditions that are commonly undiagnosed in related areas may include:

Causes of Anemia listed in Disease Database:

Other medical conditions listed in the Disease Database as possible causes of Anemia as a symptom include:

Article Excerpts about Anemia

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)

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 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)

If your blood is low in red blood cells, you have anemia. Red blood... (Source: excerpt from Anemia in Kidney Disease and Dialysis: NIDDK)

The condition of having too few red blood cells. Healthy red blood cells carry oxygen ... (Source: excerpt from Kidney Failure Glossary: NIDDK)

Anemia is a process, not a disease, and is the most common disorder of the... (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)

Subnormal levels or function of erythrocytes, resulting in symptoms of tissue hypoxia.
- (Source - CRISP)

A condition in which the number of red blood cells is below normal.
- (Source - National Cancer Institute)

Organs affected by Anemia:

The list of organs typically affected by Anemia may include, but is not limited to:

Detailed list of causes of Anemia

The list below shows some of the causes of Anemia mentioned in various sources:

How Common are these Causes of Anemia?

This information refers to the general prevalence and incidence of these diseases, not to how likely they are to be the actual cause of Anemia. Of the 926 causes of Anemia that we have listed, we have the following prevalence/incidence information:

  • 6 causes are "very common" diseases
  • 11 causes are "common" diseases
  • 10 causes are "uncommon" diseases
  • 3 causes are "rare" diseases
  • 29 causes are "very rare" diseases
  • 888 causes have no prevalence information.

Conditions listing medical symptoms: Anemia:

The following list of conditions have 'Anemia' or similar listed as a symptom in our database. This computer-generated list may be inaccurate or incomplete. Always seek prompt professional medical advice about the cause of any symptom.

Select from the following alphabetical view of conditions which include a symptom of Anemia or choose View All.

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Conditions listing medical complications: Anemia:

The following list of medical conditions have Anemia or similar listed as a medical complication in our database. The distinction between a symptom and complication is not always clear, and conditions mentioning this symptom as a complication may also be relevant. This computer-generated list may be inaccurate or incomplete. Always seek prompt professional medical advice about the cause of any symptom.





















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Causes of Anemia Based on Risk Factors

This information shows analysis of the list of causes of Anemia based on whether certain risk factors apply to the patient:

  • Travel - has the patient travelled recently?
  • Diabetes - history of diabetes or family history of diabetes?

    What are the alternative names for Anemia:

    Anaemia, Haemoglobin levels low (peripheral blood), Hemoglobin low
    - (Source - Diseases Database)

    Classifications of Anemia:

    Subtypes of Anemia:

    Pernicious anemia (24 causes), Hemolytic anemia (134 causes), Red cell breakdown (7 causes)

    Medical Conditions associated with Anemia:

    Blood symptoms (2297 causes), Red blood cell symptoms (891 causes), Abnormal blood test symptoms (1538 causes)

    Symptoms related to Anemia:

    Low blood iron (22 causes), High blood iron (9 causes), Blood symptoms (2297 causes), Fatigue (3235 causes), Weakness (3752 causes), Pale (536 causes), Decreased hemoglobin, Decreased red blood cell count, Haemorrhage, Exccessive blood loss, Blood transfusion, Iron therapy, Pregnancy (699 causes)

    Medical articles on signs and symptoms:

    Doctor-patient articles related to symptoms and diagnosis:

    These general medical articles may be of interest:

    Medical News summaries about Anemia

    Our news pages contain the following medical news summaries about Anemia and many other medical conditions:

    Related medical articles from our Disease Center for Anemia:

    More Ways To Research Medical Signs and Symptoms:


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