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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:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Headaches
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Pale skin

As anemia gets worse, you also may experience:

  • Dizziness
  • 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 medical history, perform a physical exam, and run the following tests.

During the physical exam, 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 for a rapid or irregular heartbeat.

Depending on your condition, he or she may refer you to a hematologist. You may be asked by the doctor to run the following tests:

  • Complete blood cell count (CBC) to measure the number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in your blood. For anemia, your doctor will check the levels of your hemoglobin and hematocrit in your blood. Abnormal results might be a sign of anemia.

    Generally, normal adult hemoglobin values are 14-18 grams per deciliter for men and 12-16 grams per deciliter for women, and normal adult hematocrit values are between 40% and 52% for men and 35% and 47% for women.

  • 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 levels of vitamin B-12 and folate, which are necessary for red blood cell production.
  • Reticulocyte count, bilirubin, and other blood tests 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 life span.
  • In rare cases, a bone marrow test may be performed to see whether your bone marrow is making enough red blood cells.

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