Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Information and Resources

Understanding Anemia -- Symptoms

What Are the Symptoms of Anemia?

The symptoms of anemia vary according to the type of anemia, the underlying cause, the severity and any underlying health problems, such as hemorrhaging, ulcers, menstrual problems, or cancer. Specific symptoms of those problems may be noticed first.

The body also has a remarkable ability to compensate for early anemia. If your anemia is mild or has developed over a long period of time, you may not notice any symptoms.

Understanding Anemia

Find out more about anemia:

Basics

Symptoms

Diagnosis and Treatment

 

 

Symptoms common to many types of anemia include the following:

  • Easy fatigue and loss of energy
  • Unusually rapid heart beat, particularly with exercise
  • Shortness of breath and headache, particularly with exercise
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dizziness
  • Pale skin
  • Leg cramps
  • Insomnia

Other symptoms are associated with specific forms of anemia.

Anemia Caused by Iron Deficiency

People with an iron deficiency may experience these symptoms:

  • A hunger for strange substances such as paper, ice, or dirt (a condition called pica)
  • Upward curvature of the nails, referred to as koilonychias
  • Soreness of the mouth with cracks at the corners

 

Anemia Caused by Vitamin B12 Deficiency

People whose anemia is caused by a deficiency of Vitamin B12 may have these symptoms:

  • A tingling, "pins and needles" sensation in the hands or feet
  • Lost sense of touch
  • A wobbly gait and difficulty walking
  • Clumsiness and stiffness of the arms and legs
  • Dementia
  • Hallucinations, paranoia, and schizophrenia

 

Anemia Caused by Chronic Lead Poisoning

Chronic lead poisoning may lead to these symptoms:

  • A blue-black line on the gums referred to as a lead line
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting

 

Anemia Caused by Chronic Red Blood Cell Destruction

Anemia caused by chronic red blood cell destruction may include these symptoms:

  • Jaundice (yellow skin and eyes)
  • Brown or red urine
  • Leg ulcers
  • Failure to thrive in infancy
  • Symptoms of gallstones

 

Sickle Cell Anemia

Symptoms of sickle cell anemia may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Susceptibility to infection
  • Delayed growth and development in children
  • Episodes of severe pain, especially in the joints, abdomen, and limbs

 

Anemia Caused by Sudden Red Blood Cell Destruction

Symptoms of anemia caused by sudden red blood cell destruction may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Brown or red urine
  • Jaundice (yellow skin)
  • Small bruises under the skin
  • Seizures
  • Symptoms of kidney failure

 

Call Your Doctor About Anemia If:

Call your doctor if you notice any signs or symptoms of anemia including:

  • Persistent fatigue, breathlessness, rapid heart rate, pale skin, or any other symptoms of anemia
  • Poor diet or inadequate dietary intake of vitamins and minerals
  • Very heavy menstrual periods
  • Symptoms of an ulcer, gastritis, hemorrhoids, bloody or tarry stools, or colorectal cancer
  • Concern about environmental exposure to lead
  • A hereditary anemia runs in your family and you would like genetic counseling before having a child

For women considering pregnancy, your doctor will likely recommend that you begin taking supplements, especially folate, even before conception. These supplements benefit both mother and baby.

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on March 08, 2014

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

hands on abdomen
Can you catch one?
Woman sitting in front of UV lights
Is yours working?
woman using breath spray
What's causing yours?
womans hand on abdomen
Are you ready for baby?
MS Overview
Recognizing symptoms.
bowl of yogurt with heart shape
Eat for a healthy heart.
woman doing pushups
To help you get fit.
Colored x-ray of tooth decay
Know what to look for.
Woman sitting with child
Do you know the symptoms?
mosquito
Stings, bites, burns, and more.
Allentown, PA
Are you living in one?
Thyroid exam
See how much you know.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.