Anemia Signs & Symptoms
Updated: Jun 9, 2019
Signs and symptoms of Anemia
Anemia is a common symptom of many different diseases and conditions. The anemia is not a disease or illness itself but rather an indication of an underlying medical condition. For the most part, anemia is discovered during a routine physical examination. However, individuals are sometimes able to recognize the signs and symptoms of anemia at home and request an evaluation by their primary care physician.
The most common symptom of anemia is fatigue, which means feeling tired or very weak. Unfortunately, this symptom is very common in other medical conditions. Individuals who suffer from anemia will also have other symptoms which include: shortness of breath, dizziness, headache, coldness in the hands or feet, pale skin, pale mucous membranes especially under the eyes or chest pain.
The majority of these symptoms happen because the heart has to work harder to pump oxygen throughout the body. The added work to the heart and lack of oxygen can leave individuals with complications from anemia that can be lifelong or even life-threatening. One complication is arrhythmias which is a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. Over time, arrhythmias will damage the heart muscle and potentially lead to heart failure.
Anemia will also cause damage to other organs in the body because the blood cannot get enough oxygen to them. One of those organs to suffer is usually the kidneys. Chronic kidney damage can lead to the need for dialysis or a kidney transplant in order to maintain health. The kidneys are responsible for filtering toxins from the bloodstream.
If the anemia is severe enough, it can interfere with your ability to perform everyday tasks. People can become too exhausted to go to work, go to school or even climb the stairs. Left untreated it can result in congestive heart failure and in the case of pernicious anemia, can lead to nerve damage and decreased mental function.
Complications from sickle cell anemia can be serious and lead to life-threatening complications as well as severe occlusive pain crises. Individuals who are already anemic from a variety of causes and lose blood from trauma may suffer fatal complications.
Anemia is a fairly common disorder in people who have certain chronic ailments are more susceptible to it. If you believe you might have anemia it is important that you consult with your physician immediately. Anemia can be a symptom of any number of underlying serious medical conditions and, like most medical conditions, with the early diagnosis and treatment the prognosis is much better.
MayoClinic: Anemia Symptoms
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: What are the Signs and Symptoms of Anemia
University of California San Francisco Benioff Children's Hospital: Sickle Cell Anemia Signs and Symptoms