12 Signs and Symptoms of Anemia- Causes, Treatment

What is Anemia?

Anemia is a medical condition characterized by reduction in Red Blood Cells or the quantity of Hemoglobin. It weakens the capacity of blood carrying oxygen to body tissues due to decreased quantity, functional capacity and structural disturbances of red blood cells. The ideal values of hemoglobin levels are different for men and women. Whereas a value of at least 13.5 gram/100 ml. is considered normal for men on the other side, at least 12.0 gram/100 ml. is considered normal for women. It is the most common problem worldwide in general population. As per World health Organization (WHO) 2008 report, 24.8 % of world’s population is affected by this disease.

Causes of Anemia:

There is no single cause for this disease however, below are three main causes associated with different types of Anemia:

1. Anemia caused by decreased or faulty red blood cell production:

  • In this type of Anemia, a few blood cells are produced in the body and among those few cells produced, some may not function properly. Both these situations lead to Anemia.
  • Decrease or Deformation in Red Blood Cells may be due to inadequate intake of essential vitamins and minerals, which are required for the production of RBCs.
  • Red Blood Cells are produced in Bone marrow, a soft and spongy tissue found in the bones. The bone marrow can be affected by number of diseases like leukemia, where white blood cells are produced at an abnormal rate, hampering the normal production of red blood cells.

2. Anemia caused by blood loss:
The loss of blood means loss of Red Blood Cells. The RBCs are lost from the body through the bleeding. Red blood cells can be lost through bleeding. The bleeding sometimes be too slow to be detected. Here are few medical conditions which can be blamed for the bleeding:

  • Menstruation and Child Birth: A lot of valuable blood is lost from woman’s body every month during menstruation cycle. Also, there is loss of blood during Pregnancy depending upon the nature of pregnancy which may be normal or c-section or the multiple pregnancies.
  • Certain Gastrointestinal conditions like inflammation of stomach i.e. gastritis, ulcers, hemorrhoids and cancers etc. which lead to chronic bleeding.
  • The excessive use of some of the Non Steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; NSAIDS like aspirin or ibuprofen etc. cause ulcers and gastritis which in turns cause chronic bleeding.

3. Anemia caused by the destruction of red blood cells

  • A normal life cycle of RBC is 120 days. But, if they are destroyed either by foreign body or body’s itself immune system, there is decrease in RBC.
  • Hemolytic Anemia is such one type in which body’s One type of anemia that falls into this category is autoimmune hemolytic anemia, where the body’s immune system mistakenly recognizes its own red blood cells as a foreign substance and attacks them.
  • RBCs can be destroyed due to various reasons namely certain kind of infections, chronic liver or kidney impairment, some class of antibiotics, spleen enlargement and malfunctioning of Heart valves.

Risk Factors of Anemia:

Anemia can occur any point in lifetime and can affect males, females or children. However, certain factors or medical conditions can alleviate the risk.
I. Menstruation- Before menopause, this is the time when a lot of highly rich blood is lost from the women’s body every month, which may lead to women anemic.
II. Pregnancy- At this time, your body needs additional dose of vitamins and minerals like Iron, Folic Acid, Vitamin D, E etc. If you are not taking these adequate minerals as per your body requirement, you and your unborn baby are at a higher risk of anemia.
III. Inadequate Diet- If you consume a diet devoid of essential nutrients specially minerals like iron, folate, B-12 etc, then you at a higher risk of getting anemic.
IV. Intestinal disorders- If you have any problem in your intestines, then the nutrients consumed through food do not get properly absorbed by the intestine leading to shortage of essential minerals in the body making you at higher risk of anemia.
V. Long Term Disease- Chronic illness associated with the functions of Kidney, Liver, Stomach, Heart and other vital body organ may affect the production of Red Blood Cells which can increase the risk of getting anemia.
VI. Family History- Certain type of anemia like ‘Sickle Cell Anemia’ often inherited from parents or forefathers to the younger generations. If you have such family history, you are in danger zone of inheriting this disease.
VII. Infections and Ulcers- A certain kind of body infections and ulcers make a slow but continuous loss of blood and hence iron from your body which may cause anemia.
VIII. Sudden loss of blood- Sudden Loss of blood during major injury or a surgery may also be one of the causes of anemia.

12 Signs and Symptoms of Anemia:

The signs and symptoms of Anemia may be different and largely depend on to the cause of anemia. However, below are few common symptoms which you should not ignore:

1. Pale/Yellowish Skin-

The low level of hemoglobin cause pale or yellowish skin especially the inside lower of eyelids, nails etc. Paleness can also appear on some or more body parts like face, hands, gums etc. Even the doctors consider this an important symptom while diagnosing anemia.

2. Shortness of breath

The main function of hemoglobin in Red blood cells is to transport oxygen to body parts and tissues. In the event of low hemoglobin level, the oxygen-carrying capacity of red blood cells reduces. It makes the person exerts more pressure on lungs and breath heavily and causing shortness of breath. This shortness of breath accentuates during performing daily activities like walking, climbing stairs etc.

3. Irregular Heartbeats-

Since the oxygen carrying capacity of red blood cells decreases due to low hemoglobin, it exerts more pressure on heart also to pump extra blood so as to compensate the low level of oxygen reaching to body parts. It increases the heartbeat often termed as ‘Heart Palpitation’. In extreme cases, this irregular heartbeat may be the culprit of heart failure.

4. Fatigue-

This is one of the important symptoms of anemic persons. The hemoglobin protein’s function is to carry oxygen to different body parts and tissues. Low level of hemoglobin causes less oxygen to reach body tissues making them devoid of energy. The fast heartbeat also adds to the tiredness making the person drained all day long.

5. Chest Pain

The symptoms of anemia are interrelated. Low level of hemoglobin causing less oxygen to reach body parts and thus putting hear at extra pressure to pump more blood, this extra strain may produce pain in the chest which may be regular or intermittent.

6. Light-headedness or Dizziness-

Lack of oxygen due to the low level of hemoglobin cause blood vessels in the brain to swell, creating more pressure and tend to give you light-headedness or dizziness.

7. Brittle Nails-

This symptom can be seen in the people with iron deficiency anemia. The fingernails often turn brittle and crack easily. In some cases at higher stages of anemia, the nails also acquire the appearance of a spoon.

8. Inflammation and swelling of Tongue and Mouth-

People with iron deficiency anemia have sometimes their tongue swollen, sore or peculiarly smooth. There may also present some cracks on the corners of the mouth and a dry mouth in anemic persons.

9. Restless or Tingling Legs-

A medical condition called ‘Restless Leg Syndrome’ is generally associated with anemic persons. This is a strong desire or inner push to move your legs while at rest. This syndrome usually affects an anemic person more at night disturbing his or her sleep.

10. Numbness in Hands and Feet-

Due to the availability of less oxygen to body parts owing to less hemoglobin, hands and feet may be felt cold or numb by the people. It can be a symptom of anemia.

11. Damaged Skin and Hair Loss

Due to low hemoglobin level, there is an insufficient supply of oxygen to body parts and tissues. Therefore, the hairs and skin become weak and got damaged due to restricted supply of oxygen. Hair loss in some severe cases can also be a symptom of anemia.

12. Poor appetite and craving for Non-Nutritious substances-

Another symptom of anemia can be seen as a sporadic loss of appetite in anemic patients. However, they tend to develop strong cravings for non-nutritious substances like chalk, ice, dirt etc.


Diagnosis of Anemia:

  •  A simple Complete Blood Count (CBC) test is performed by the doctor to count the number of blood cells and the level of hemoglobin in your blood can also calculate the number of white blood cells and platelets in the blood. With this information, the doctor can easily identify and classify the source and cause of Anemia, which can prove to be the foundation of the treatment for this disease.
  • Additional diagnostic tests sometimes may be required to be performed by the doctor in order to identify the specific types of hemoglobin in your blood and to diagnose the underlying conditions such as Hemolytic anemia, Thalassemia and sickle cell anemia.

Treatment and Medication of Anemia:

The treatment and medication of anemia largely depend on its underlying cause. Some of the treatments as per the cause of anemia are given as below:

1. Iron and Vitamin deficiency anemia is treated with Diet Modifications, taking multivitamins and multi-mineral supplements having Iron, Vitamin C, Folate, Vitamin B12 etc.

2. Hemolytic anemia are treated by curing certain infections, avoiding medicines suppressing the immune systems or in severe cases, blood transfusion or the process known as ‘Plasmapheresis’ is done.

3. Aplastic Anemia treatment is carried out by blood transfusion or bone marrow transplantation.

4. Sickle Cell anemia is treated with the administration of pain-relieving drugs, IV fluids or the oxygen. Blood transfusion, in this case, may also be required at times depending upon the severity and state of health of patient.

5. Anemia occurring due to malfunctioning of bone marrow is treated with certain medications, bone marrow transplantation or chemotherapy.

Home Remedies for treating Anemia:

1. Eat Iron-rich foods like Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, Collard green, kale etc.
2. Consume fresh fruits like Pomegranate, apples, beetroots.
3. Eat Dried fruits such as figs, dates, apricots and raisins.
4. Eat Black grams, pulses, legumes like beans chickpeas, lentils and soybeans.
5. Consume citrus fruits which are rich in Vitamin C like Amla, Oranges, Guava to increase of absorption of iron in the body.
6. You can also consume sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds having a high volume of iron and other minerals.
7. Non-Vegetarian lovers can eat Red meat, poultry, liver and other organ meat, Shellfish and other seafood.

Check our diet plan for recovering from Anemia.

Sagar Papneja

For me, health is about sustainable living and consuming environmentally conscious food; I am a vegan.

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