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.
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
- Pale skin
- Leg cramps
Other symptoms are associated with specific forms of anemia.
Anemia Caused by Iron Deficiency
People with an iron deficiency may experience these symptoms:
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
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
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:
Anemia Caused by Sudden Red Blood Cell Destruction
Symptoms of anemia caused by sudden red blood cell destruction may include:
Call Your Doctor About Anemia If:
Talk to your doctor if you have risk factors for anemia or notice any signs or symptoms of anemia including:
- Persistent fatigue, breathlessness, rapid heart rate, pale skin, or any other symptoms of anemia; seek emergency care for any trouble breathing or change in your heart beat.
- 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.