Anemia Symptoms and Diagnosis
Symptoms of anemia vary depending on the severity of the anemia and its cause. The signs and symptoms of anemia can be mild or severe. Mild anemia usually has no signs or symptoms. If you do develop signs and symptoms, they may include:
- Shortness of breath
- Cold hands and feet
- Pale skin
As anemia gets worse, you also may experience:
- Chest pain
- Increased thirst
- Rapid heart beat
If the anemia is caused by excessive RBCs destruction, symptoms may also include jaundice (yellowing of the eyes or skin), enlarged spleen and tea-colored urine.
Diagnosis of Anemia
If you have any signs or symptoms of anemia, consult your doctor for a diagnosis. Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms, review your medical history and perform a physical examination.
During the physical examination your doctor may look for signs of bleeding, check to see whether the inner linings of your eyes and/or nails are pale, and listen to your heart.
There may also be clues as to the cause of the anemia such as yellow discoloration of the whites of the eyes and skin, and enlargement of the liver and spleen in hemolytic anemia.
Depending on your condition he may refer you to a hematologist. You may be asked by the doctor to undergo certain tests which include:
- A simple blood test called a complete blood cell count (CBC) to measure the number, sizes, and types of different cells in your blood.
- Special blood tests to detect rare causes of anemia, such as an immune attack on your red blood cells, red blood cell fragility, and defects of enzymes.
- Tests to see the reticulocyte count, bilirubin, and other blood to determine how quickly your blood cells are being made or if you have a hemolytic anemia, where your red blood cells have a shortened lifespan.
- Tests to see the levels of vitamin B-12 and folate, which are necessary for red blood cell production.
- In rare cases, a bone marrow test may be performed to see whether your bone marrow is making enough red blood cells.