Anemia Symptoms, Causes, and Risk Factors

Anemia is a common disorder in which the number of red blood cells in the blood is lower than normal. It can also appear if the red blood cells don’t contain enough hemoglobin (a protein rich in iron responsible for the red color of our blood).

Common Anemia Symptoms

Anemia symptoms often vary depending on the causes of your anemia. They can include:

  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Yellowish or pale skin
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Cold feet and hands
  • Chest pain

At first, this disorder can be so mild and it goes unnoticed. However, symptoms worsen as the condition worsens.

Causes of Anemia

Anemia occurs when the blood does not have enough red blood cells. That happens when:

  • The body does not produce enough hemoglobin for red blood cells;
  • The body abolishes red blood cells, and
  • Bleeding can cause a person to lose red blood cells quicker than they could be replaced.

However, different types of anemia can have different causes. The most common causes of anemia include:

Anemia Symptoms

Iron Deficiency Anemia

People with an iron deficiency can experience the following symptoms:

  • A desire for strange substances as ice, paper, or even dirt (a disorder known as pica);
  • Soreness of your mouth with cracks at the corner, and/or
  • Upward curvature of your nails (koilonychia).

Vitamin B12 Deficiency Anemia

People with a Vitamin B12 deficiency can have the following anemia symptoms:

  • Lose sense of touch;
  • A tingling sensation in the feet or hands;
  • Dementia;
  • Difficulty walking and wobbly gait, and/or
  • Stiffness and clumsiness of the arms and legs.

Chronic Lead Poisoning Anemia

People with a chronic lead poisoning can experience these anemia symptoms:

  • Stomach pain;
  • A blue-black line on the gums;
  • Constipation, and/or
  • Chronic Red Blood Cell Destruction Anemia

The condition caused by chronic red blood cell destruction can include these anemia symptoms:

  • Red or brown urine;
  • Yellow eyes and skin (jaundice);
  • Leg ulcers;
  • Symptoms of gallstones, and/or
  • Failure to thrive in early stages.

Sickle Cell Anemia

People with sickle cell anemia have the following symptoms:

  • Vulnerability to infection;
  • Fatigue;
  • Episodes of pain, especially in the abdomen, limbs and joints, and/or
  • Delayed development and growth in children.

 Sudden Red Blood Cell Destruction Anemia

Anemia symptoms caused by sudden red blood cell destruction can include:

  • Red or brown urine;
  • Abdominal pain;
  • Seizures;
  • Yellow skin (jaundice);
  • Symptoms of kidney failure, and/or
  • Small bumps under the skin.

Risk Factors

Here are the most common risk factors that can lead to anemia:

  • Intestinal disorder

Having this condition that affects the nutrient absorption in the small intestine, as celiac disease and Crohn’s disease, can put you at great risk of anemia.

  • Lacking in certain vitamins

Leading a diet that is constantly low in iron, folate, and vitamin B-12 increase the risk of anemia.

  • Chronic diseases

In case you have kidney failure, cancer or some other chronic disease, you might be at risk of anemia because these diseases can lead to a shortage of red blood cells.

  • Menstruation

Generally, women who have not experienced menopause have a bigger risk of anemia of iron deficiency than do postmenopausal women and men. That is because menstruation can cause great loss of red blood cells.

  • Pregnancy

In case you are pregnant and you are not consuming a multivitamin with folic acid, then you are at risk of anemia.

  • Age

People over age 67 and older are at increased risks of anemia.

  • Family history

In case you have a family with inherited anemia, as sickle cell anemia, you also might be at risk of having this condition.

  • Other factors

A history of blood diseases, autoimmune disorders, some infections, exposure to toxic chemicals, use of certain medications, and alcoholism can affect the production of red blood cells and lead to anemia.


Left untreated, this disorder can cause various health problems, such as:

Heart issues

Anemia can lead to an irregular or rapid heartbeat (arrhythmia). When a person is anemic the heart should pump more blood in order to compensate for the lack of oxygen in the person’s blood. This can lead to a heart failure or enlarged heart.

Severe fatigue

When anemia is severe, you might be so tired that you cannot complete your daily tasks.

Pregnancy complication

Pregnant women that have folate deficiency anemia might be more likely to experience some complications, like premature birth.


Certain inherited anemias, as sickle cell anemia, can be severe and lead to really serious complications. Losing a great amount of blood quickly results in severe anemia and could be fatal.




If you experience any signs or anemia symptoms, visit your doctor immediately. Self-diagnosing and self-treating anemia may result in adverse health effect. Try to include and control the consumption of iron, vitamin B12 and folate in your diet.

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