Early symptoms of anemia

Early symptoms of anemiaThe early symptoms of anemia may be mild at first, as the condition develops gradually. In general, anemia can be defined as feeling too tired or weak to perform common daily activities.

Anemia symptoms include the following:

·         Fatigue.

·         Pale skin.

·         Fast or abnormal heartbeat.

·         Shortness of breath.

·         Chest pain.

·         Dizziness.

·         Cognitive difficulties.

·         Cold or numb hands and feet.

·         Headache.

·         Irritability.

·         Underperformance at work or school.

·         Low body temperature.

The symptoms may also vary depending on the cause. There are different types of anemia resulting from diverse circumstances. The most common types are:

Types of anemia

Iron deficiency

Characterized by low levels of iron in the body; caused by loss of blood (heavy menstrual bleeding, an ulcer, cancer, a polyp somewhere in the digestive system), and by long-term use of aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Vitamin deficiency

Caused by either a lack of B12 vitamin or the body’s inability to process B12 vitamin.

Chronic diseases

Such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease and other chronic inflammatory diseases.


Caused by a rare inability of the bone marrow to produce red blood cells.

Related to bone marrow diseases

Such as leukemia, myelodysplasia or myelofibrosis.


Occurs when red blood cells die faster than the bone marrow can produce them.

Sickle cell

Characterized by sickle-shaped red blood cells that die too soon.


Thalassemia and anemias caused by defective hemoglobin.


As can be seen, people whose intake of iron and vitamin B12 or folate is below average are more at risk of anemia, as are people who do not have enough red blood cells – along with the protein they carry, called hemoglobin – to carry oxygen all around their bodies. Additionally, women who have not gone through menopause are more likely to lose red blood cells during menstruation than post-menopausal women and, obviously, men. Other risk factors include:

·         Intestinal disorders.

·         Pregnancy.

·         Family history.

·         Others (a history of certain infections, blood diseases and autoimmune disorders, alcoholism, exposure to toxic chemicals, and the use of some medications).

As can be easily surmised, the go-to diagnostic test to diagnose anemia is a complete blood count (CBC). This test counts the blood cells in a blood sample; in this case, the doctor would focus on the level of red blood cells (hematocrit) and hemoglobin. The doctor may perform other tests as well, such as:

·         A physical exam.

·         A hemoglobin electrophoresis.

·         A reticulocyte count.

·         And others.

It is essential to establish that the early symptoms of anemia do not go away with rest. In fact, if this condition is not treated, the patient could rest permanently.

Complications of anemia:

·         Extreme fatigue.

·         Heart problems.

·         Death.

Treatment of anemia takes a two-pronged approach; to identify the root of the problem – thus the importance of diagnosis – and boost the levels of red blood cells and hemoglobin. As far as the latter is concerned the goal is to supply the body with whatever elements are missing to ensure proper distribution of oxygen throughout the body. For example:


  • Spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables.
  • Tofu. 
  • Peas; lentils; white, red, and baked beans; soybeans; and chickpeas.
  • Dried fruits, such as prunes, raisins, and apricots.
  • Prune juice.
  • Iron-fortified cereals and breads.

Vitamin B12

  • Breakfast cereals with added vitamin B12.
  • Meats such as beef, liver, poultry, and fish.
  • Eggs and dairy products (such as milk, yogurt, and cheese).
  • Foods fortified with vitamin B12, such as soy-based beverages and vegetarian burgers.

Vitamin C

  • Oranges.
  • Grapefruits.
  • Tangerines.
  • Kiwi.
  • Strawberries.
  • Cantaloupe.
  • Broccoli.
  • Peppers.
  • Brussels sprouts.
  • Tomatoes.
  • Cabbage.
  • Potatoes.
  • Leafy green vegetables.

Folic acid

  • Bread, pasta, and rice with added folic acid.
  • Spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables.
  • Black-eyed peas and dried beans.
  • Beef liver.
  • Eggs.

·         Bananas, oranges, orange juice, and some other fruits and juices


In addition to dietary changes, treatment can include medications (antibiotics, hormones, chelation therapy), procedures (blood transfusion, blood and marrow stem cell transplant) and, in serious cases, surgery.

Related Read:

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Diseases and Conditions Anemia

What Is Anemia?

- How do I prevent anemia?