Anemia Center

Anemia Symptoms

People with mild anemia may not experience any symptoms, or the symptoms may be so mild that they are not noticeable. For many people, anemia symptoms develop slowly. This is because the body adapts to the condition and reduces the effect of symptoms. As anemia becomes more severe, however, the body can no longer compensate and the symptoms may become more noticeable. Or if anemia develops rapidly, such as during a case of blood loss ( i.e., traumatic injury) you may notice the symptoms right away. Finally, anemia that develops over a short period of time can lead to more symptoms than a case of anemia that slowly develops over months to years.

Symptoms of anemia
If you are experiencing anemia, it may seem hard to find the energy to do normal activities. The most common symptom of anemia is fatigue (feeling tired or weak). Anemia can also make you feel:

  • depressed
  • dizzy (vertigo)
  • irritable

During anemia, you may also experience the following symptoms:

  • brittle nails
  • chest pain
  • coldness in your hands or feet
  • cognitive problems
  • fatigue
  • fuzzy thinking
  • headache
  • irregular heartbeat (arrhythmias)
  • loss of concentration
  • pale skin
  • weakness
  • trouble breathing

Some people with anemia also have a desire to eat ice or other peculiar things, experience sexual dysfunction, or have trouble concentrating or performing mental tasks. 

If left untreated, anemia can cause numerous complications, such as:

Death - Losing a lot of blood quickly results in acute, severe anemia and can be fatal. Some inherited anemias, such as sickle cell anemia, can be serious and lead to life-threatening complications.

Heart problems - During anemia, the heart must pump more blood to compensate for the lack of oxygen in the blood. Although this increase in pumping by the heart may delay the onset of symptoms, the muscle of the heart wall thickens under increased strain, and can result in left ventricular hypertrophy or lead to congestive heart failure.

Impaired mental function - A shortage of vitamin B-12 during anemia can affect mental abilities.

Nerve damage - A decrease in Vitamin B-12 during anemia is essential not only for healthy red blood cell production, but also for healthy nerve function.

When to seek help
Should symptoms of anemia present themselves, please seek medical help sooner rather than later. Low hemoglobin may be a warning sign of blood loss in the body that is causing temporary iron deficiency. See your doctor if you're feeling fatigued for unexplained reasons, especially if you're at risk of anemia. See your doctor to diagnose and treat anemia if you:

  • cannot donate blood due to low hemoglobin
  • feel fatigued for unexplained reasons
  • feeling fatigued and have risks of developing anemia

It's important to diagnose and treat symptoms of anemia when you first notice them. Identifying the source of what is causing anemia is a key element. This can help prevent the symptoms from worsening and possibly causing heart problems, nerve damage or even death. To learn more about how to diagnose anemia and which tests doctors use, check out the next section on anemia diagnosis now.

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