Anemia: causes, symptoms and treatment (2023)


What is anemia?

Anemia occurs when you don't have enoughRed blood cellsor your red blood cells aren't working the way they should. Your red blood cells carry oxygen throughout your body. Oxygen fuels your cells and gives you energy. Without healthy red blood cells doing their job, your body doesn't get the energy it needs to function. While some types of anemia are short-term and mild, others can last a lifetime. Left untreated, anemia can be life-threatening.

How does anemia affect my body?

When someone develops anemia, they are said to be anemic, meaning they have symptoms of anemia such as being very tired or feeling cold all the time. Anemia affects different people in different ways:

  • newborn: Some infants are born with a low red blood cell count. Most newborns do not require medical treatment for anemia, but some with severe anemia may need blood transfusions.
  • toddlers: Infants may be getting less iron than they need when they start eating solid foods. That's because the iron in solid foods isn't as easily absorbed as iron in breast milk or formula. Infants with anemia may appear lethargic.
  • Kinder: Children grow a lot between birth and 2 years of age. Children with growth spurts need more iron. Children with anemia may develop related problems, such as delayed motor skill development and problems with learning.
  • women who are pregnant: Pregnant women can develop iron deficiency anemia, which can increase the risk of complications such as preterm birth or having babies with low birth weight.
  • Women and Persons Designated as Female at Birth (DFAB): Women and people with DFAB who have heavy periods (menstrual bleeding) or similar conditionsUterus myomecan lose blood and develop anemia.
  • Persons aged 65 and over: People over 65 are more likely to have a low-iron diet and certain chronic diseases that increase their risk of developing anemia. If they develop anemia, they may have itheart conditionsor weakness that makes it difficult for them to get around. You may have confusion orDepression.
  • people with chronic diseases: Some chronic diseases such asautoimmune diseasesorKrebscan increase the risk of anemia. That isAnemia in chronic diseases.
How common is this condition?

Anemia is very common, affecting an estimated one-third of the world's population and an estimated 3 million people in the United States.

What types of anemia are there?

There are many types of anemia, all of which lead to a drop in red blood cell counts.

(Video) Anemia - Causes, Symptoms, Treatments and Prevention

nutritional anemias
  • Pernicious anemia: Pernicious anemia, one of the causes of vitamin B12 deficiency, is an autoimmune disease that prevents your body from absorbing vitamin B12.
  • iron deficiency anemia: As the name suggests, iron deficiency anemia occurs when your body doesn't have enough iron to manufacture ithemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the substance in your red blood cells that allows them to carry oxygen throughout your body.
  • Megaloblastenanämie: Megaloblastic anemia is a form of vitamin deficiency anemia that occurs when you don't get enough vitamin B12 and/or vitamin B9 (folate).
Inherited anemias
  • Sickle cell anemia: Sickle cell anemia changes the shape of your red blood cells, turning round flexible discs into stiff and sticky sickle cells that block blood flow.
  • Fanconi anemia: Fanconi anemia is a rare blood disorder. Anemia is a sign of Fanconi anemia.
  • Diamond Blackfan Anemia: This inherited condition prevents your bone marrow from making enough red blood cells.
Anemias caused by abnormal red blood cells
  • Hemolytic anemia: With this anemia, your red blood cells break down or die faster than usual.
  • aplastic anemia: This anemia occurs when stem cells in your bone marrow don't make enough red blood cells.
  • Autoimmune hemolytic anemia: In autoimmune hemolytic anemia, your immune system attacks your red blood cells.
  • Sideroblastic anemia: With sideroblastic anemia, you don't have enough red blood cells and too much iron in your system.
  • Macrocytic Anemia:This anemia occurs when your bone marrow makes abnormally large red blood cells.
  • Microcytic anemia: This anemia occurs when your red blood cells don't have enough hemoglobin, causing them to be smaller than usual.
  • Normocytic anemia: With this type of anemia, you have fewer red blood cells than usual, and those red blood cells don't have the normal amount of hemoglobin.

symptoms and causes

What are the symptoms of anemia?

Fatigue — feeling too tired to do your activities — is the most prominent symptom of anemia. Other symptoms can include:

  • shortness of breath (dyspnea): This is the feeling that you cannot catch your breath or take a deep breath.
  • dizziness: This is a feeling of lightheadedness or unsteadiness on your feet.
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat (Arrhythmia): This is when your heart feels like it's racing or skipping beats.
  • Throbbing or "whooshing" noise in your ear (pulsating ringing):This is a noise in one of your ears that can come and go.
  • Headache: Iron deficiency anemia and anemias caused by low hemoglobin can cause headaches.
  • Pale or yellow skin: Your skin color may be paler than usual.
  • chest pain: This may feel like something is pinching or pressing on your chest.

What is the main cause of anemia?

People can be born with certain types of anemia or develop anemia because they have certain chronic diseases. But poor diet causes iron deficiency anemia, which is the most common form of anemia.

diagnosis and testing

How do healthcare providers diagnose anemia?

Your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms. Because anemia occurs when you don't have enough healthy red blood cells, they will do blood tests to check your red blood cells:

(Video) Sickle cell anemia - causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment & pathology

  • Complete Blood Count (CBC): Healthcare providers use this test to check all of your blood cells, with a focus on your red blood cells. They count your red blood cells and assess the size and shape of your red blood cells. Healthcare providers can use this test to check your vitamin B12 or B9 levels.
  • Peripheral blood smear: Healthcare providers examine your red blood cells under a microscope.

management and treatment

How do healthcare providers treat anemia?

First, your doctor will determine if you have anemia caused by a poor diet or a more serious health problem. They can refer you to ahaematologist, a healthcare provider specializing in blood disorders. Here are some examples of common anemia treatments:

  • Health care providers may recommend that you change your diet or take supplements if you have iron deficiency anemia or pernicious anemia.
  • If you have anemia from a chronic illness, your provider will treat the underlying condition. They can prescribe medication to boost red blood cell production.

Providers may use drugs like immunosuppressants or treatments like blood transfusions to treat anemias that occur when you have abnormal red blood cells, such as aplastic anemia or hemolytic anemia.


Can I prevent anemia from developing?

You cannot prevent some types of anemia, such as sickle cell anemia, hemolytic anemia, or aplastic anemia. People with chronic illnesses who can develop anemia should watch out for anemia symptoms. And you can prevent nutritional anemia by eating a healthy diet.

(Video) Iron Deficiency Anemia Treatment, Nursing, Pathophysiology, Symptoms w/ Nursing Interventions

Outlook / Forecast

What can I expect if I have this condition?

Your prognosis or expected outcome depends on why you have anemia, what type of anemia you have, and whether you have a severe form of it. In most cases, healthcare providers can treat anemia by helping you manage your diet or with medications. But there are times when you might live with anemia for the rest of your life.

What happens if anemia is not treated?

People with undiagnosed or untreated anemia can have life-threatening organ failure. Developmental delays may occur in children with severe anemia. People in their 80s can develop heart conditions, including angina, arrhythmias, and myocardial infarction.

to live with

How do I take care of myself?

While some types of anemia are short-term and mild, others can last a lifetime. There are several ways to treat anemia, including:

(Video) What is Pernicious Anemia? Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis: NCLEX Prep

  • After a healthy diet: Poor diet is the main reason people develop anemia. Ask your doctor about iron-rich foods and other foods to eat.
  • Drink enough water to stay hydrated.
  • Exercise regularly: Check with your doctor about ways to exercise safely.
  • Avoid contact with certain chemicals: Exposure to certain metals can cause hemolytic anemia.
  • Wash your hands frequently to avoid infection: You may also want to ask your doctor about vaccines that protect against common infections.
  • Take good care of your teeth and visit the dentist regularly: Iron deficiency anemia can cause dental problems.
  • Track your symptoms and let your doctor know of any changes.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have anemia, you should check with your doctor if your symptoms are getting worse despite treatment, or if you notice any changes in your body that could be new symptoms of anemia.

When should I go to the emergency room?

Anemia can increase your risk of a heart attack. Call 911 if you have the following symptoms:

  • difficulty breathing.
  • nausea.
  • Sweat.
  • chest pain

What questions should I ask my doctor?

Anemia can affect your body in many ways. It can happen for many different reasons. If you're concerned about developing anemia or have anemia, here are some questions to ask your doctor:

  • What type of anemia do I have?
  • What did it trigger?
  • What treatments do you recommend?
  • When will I feel better?
  • How long will I need treatment?
  • Can you cure my anemia?

A note from the Cleveland Clinic

Anemia occurs when you don't have enough red blood cells or your red blood cells aren't working as well as they could. Some people are born with forms of anemia, but most people with anemia develop the condition over time. That is why it is important to keep an eye on the changes in your body. For example, we all have days when we feel exhausted. However, if you feel very tired for several days even though you have rested, you should consider talking to your doctor. Most often, anemia is a short-term problem that is easily managed by changing your diet or taking supplements. Left untreated, anemia can cause serious medical problems.

(Video) Anemia, Causes, Signs and Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment


What causes anemia and what are the symptoms? ›

Anemia occurs when there aren't enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to your body's organs. As a result, it's common to feel cold and symptoms of tiredness or weakness. There are many different types of anemia, but the most common type is iron-deficiency anemia.

What is the treatment of anemia? ›

Iron supplements can increase the iron in your body. This may help treat iron-deficiency anemia. Iron supplements are generally not given to people who do not have iron-deficiency anemia because too much iron can damage your organs. Vitamin B12 supplements or shots can help treat vitamin B12–deficiency anemia.

What is anemia causes symptoms and treatment? ›

Overview. Anemia is a condition in which you lack enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to your body's tissues. Having anemia, also referred to as low hemoglobin, can make you feel tired and weak. There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause.

What is the main cause of anemia? ›

Possible causes of anemia include: Iron deficiency. Vitamin B12 deficiency. Folate deficiency.

What are the 10 causes of anemia? ›

Common specific causes include:
  • Chemotherapy or other medications affecting the bone marrow cells responsible for making red blood cells.
  • Iron deficiency. ...
  • Lack of vitamins needed for red blood cells. ...
  • Low levels of erythropoietin. ...
  • Chronic inflammation. ...
  • Bone marrow disorders.

What happens when you have anemia? ›

If you have anemia, your body does not get enough oxygen-rich blood. The lack of oxygen can make you feel tired or weak. You may also have shortness of breath, dizziness, headaches, or an irregular heartbeat.

Can anemia be treated or cured? ›

If you have been diagnosed with acute or chronic anemia, know that it can be corrected. A variety of treatments are used to treat anemia, including blood transfusions to replace very low red blood cells (RBCs) from blood loss. Sometimes anemia is treated with vitamin replacement so the body can make its own RBCs.

What is the best medicine to treat anemia? ›

Ferrous sulfate is the mainstay treatment for treating patients with iron deficiency anemia. They should be continued for about 2 months after correction of the anemia and its etiologic cause in order to replenish body stores of iron. Ferrous sulfate is the most common and cheapest form of iron utilized.

What is the best treatment for anemia and iron deficiency? ›

Iron supplements, also called iron pills or oral iron, help increase the iron in your body. This is the most common treatment for iron-deficiency anemia. It often takes three to six months to restore your iron levels. Your doctor may ask you to take iron supplements during pregnancy.

What diseases can cause anemia? ›

Chronic conditions that cause anemia of inflammation
  • autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis link or lupus link.
  • cancer.
  • chronic infections, such as HIV/AIDS link and tuberculosis link.
  • CKD.
  • inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis.

Can stress cause anemia? ›

Sustained stress is another cause of anaemia. Excessive stress hinders the manufacture of hydrochloric acid in your body, which is very important for the integration of iron and proteins. The deficiency of iron is equal to lack of haemoglobin and thus, anaemia.

Can lack of sleep cause anemia? ›

Both short and long night sleep duration were associated with increased risk of anemia.

What cancers cause anemia? ›

The cancers most closely associated with anemia are: Cancers that involve the bone marrow. Blood cancers like leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma interfere with or destroy the marrow's ability to make healthy blood cells. Other cancers that spread to the bone marrow can also cause anemia.

What causes anemia in seniors? ›

The most common causes of anemia in the elderly are chronic disease and iron deficiency. Vitamin B12 deficiency, folate deficiency, gastrointestinal bleeding and myelodysplastic syndrome are among other causes of anemia in the elderly.

What is the fastest way to cure anemia? ›

To treat your anemia, your doctor may suggest eating more meat—especially red meat (such as beef or liver), as well as chicken, turkey, pork, fish, and shellfish. Nonmeat foods that are good sources of iron include: Spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables. Tofu.

Do people recover from anemia? ›

With treatment, most people recover from iron-deficiency anemia in 2 to 3 months. You may need to take iron supplements for several months longer, though, to build up your reserves of iron.

Is anemia very serious? ›

Anemia is a condition where you don't have enough healthy red blood cells, to carry oxygen throughout your body. Anemia can be temporary or long term (chronic). In many cases, it's mild, but anemia can also be serious and life-threatening.

Is anemia a big deal? ›

Anemia if not treated for a long period can lead to serious complications. These include heart failure, severe weakness and poor immunity. Anemia is a medical condition in which the person does not have enough red blood cells or RBCs. The RBCs in the blood carry iron a specialized protein called hemoglobin.

Can I live a normal life with anemia? ›

Living with anemia

Following treatment, most people go on to live normal, healthy lives. However, anemia can have lasting, or life-threatening, effects. These are more common if the condition is chronic, severe, or left untreated.

Can anemia cause anxiety? ›

A large 2020 study in BMC Psychiatry found that people with iron deficiency anemia had a significantly higher incidence and risk of anxiety disorders, depression, sleep disorder, and psychotic disorders.

How fast does anemia go away? ›

Your symptoms should start to go away after about a week. Your doctor will check your blood to see if your anemia has improved. You can also get more iron in your diet by eating more of these foods: Beef, pork, liver, chicken, turkey, duck, and shellfish.

What vitamin can cure anemia? ›

Both folate and vitamin B12 can cure and prevent megaloblastic anaemia. Riboflavin enhances the haematological response to iron, and its deficiency may account for a significant proportion of anaemia in many populations.

What medications worsen anemia? ›

This causes red blood cells to break down earlier than normal, a process called hemolysis.
  • Cephalosporins (a class of antibiotics), most common cause.
  • Dapsone.
  • Levodopa.
  • Levofloxacin.
  • Methyldopa.
  • Nitrofurantoin.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Penicillin and its derivatives.
Jan 19, 2021

Can I treat anemia myself? ›

Eating more foods that contain iron. Good sources of iron include meat, fish, eggs, beans, peas, and fortified foods (look for cereals fortified with 100% of the daily value for iron). Eating more foods with vitamin C. Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron.

How long does it take iron pills to help anemia? ›

Iron pills typically start to work within 3 to 7 days. However, your test readings won't go up right away. Hemoglobin blood levels generally go up after 2 to 4 weeks. Symptoms like fatigue, weakness, and headache should start to improve during this timeframe.

What level of anemia is severe? ›

Mild: Hemoglobin 10.0 g/dL to lower limit of normal. Moderate: Hemoglobin 8.0 to 10.0 g/dL. Severe: Hemoglobin 6.5 to 7.9 g/dL[1] Life-threatening: Hemoglobin less than 6.5 g/dL.

Why isn't my body absorbing iron? ›

There are several reasons why your body may not absorb iron, including: You have an intestinal or digestive condition like celiac disease, autoimmune gastritis, or inflammatory bowel disease like ulcerative colitis, or Crohn's disease. You have a Helicobacter pylori infection of your stomach.

What are the 3 main causes of anemia? ›

Your body needs iron to make hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is an iron-rich protein that gives the red color to blood. It carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Anemia has three main causes: blood loss, lack of red blood cell production, and high rates of red blood cell destruction.

What does anemia make you feel like? ›

Weakness. Pale skin. Chest pain, fast heartbeat or shortness of breath. Headache, dizziness or lightheadedness.

What are most symptoms of anemia related to? ›

When you have anemia, your body lacks oxygen, so you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Dizziness.
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat.
  • Pounding or "whooshing" in your ears.
  • Headache.
  • Cold hands or feet.
  • Pale or yellow skin.
  • Chest pain.

Can anemia be cured? ›

If you have been diagnosed with acute or chronic anemia, know that it can be corrected. A variety of treatments are used to treat anemia, including blood transfusions to replace very low red blood cells (RBCs) from blood loss. Sometimes anemia is treated with vitamin replacement so the body can make its own RBCs.

What hurts when your anemic? ›

Chest Pains and Palpitations

When there's a low level of oxygen in the blood, the heart works extra hard to compensate. This puts a lot of pressure on the heart, which can cause it to beat faster, irregularly, and experience pain. Untreated anemia can exacerbate underlying cardiovascular issues.

Can anemia cause weird symptoms? ›

Not even your mental health is spared from anemia. Because symptoms such as difficulty sleeping, lack of energy, fatigue, racing heartbeat, and restlessness are so closely linked to depression and anxiety, they can sometimes be mistaken for these mental health concerns.

Can you feel sick with anemia? ›

If iron deficiency anaemia is left untreated, it can make you more susceptible to illness and infection, as a lack of iron affects the body's natural defence system (the immune system).


1. Anemia - Causes, Symptoms, Treatments & More…
2. Iron-Deficiency Anemia (Overview) | Causes, Pathophysiology, Signs & Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment
(JJ Medicine)
3. Iron-Deficiency Anemia Signs & Symptoms (ex. Fatigue, “Spoon Nails”, Cracked Lips)
(JJ Medicine)
4. Aplastic Anemia - Causes, Symptoms and Treatments and More
5. ANEMIA | Increase Hemoglobin Level in 7 Days| Iron deficiency anemia - causes, signs - Dr Saumya
(wonder ways)
6. Iron deficiency anemia symptoms and treatment


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