The symptoms of anemia can vary, depending on the type that a patient has. In most cases, this condition has a slow onset, and the body will compensate for the lack of iron, masking the symptoms in the early stages and making anemia hard to identify. It can be diagnosed with the assistance of a blood test to check hematocrit levels, and if patients are experiencing any signs of anemia, they should be sure to mention them to a medical professional during an exam.
Many of the symptoms can be seen in all cases, regardless of the cause. Pale skin, fatigue, an irregular heartbeat, low blood pressure, weakness, and shortness of breath are symptoms, as are a sense of feeling light headed, chest pain, dizziness, fainting, and cold skin. Patients can also experience changes in stool color, nausea, and heart attacks. The longer the anemia persists, the more severe the symptoms will become.
If anemia is caused by iron deficiency, patients can experience strange food cravings, caused by the body's attempt to up its iron intake. B12 anemia can be accompanied by clumsiness, numbness, tingling, and dementia, while anemia caused by lead poisoning is accompanied with vomiting and a classic blue to black line on the gums known as a lead line. If anemia is the result of red blood cell destruction, patients can develop jaundice, dark urine, and leg ulcers. Sickle cell anemia is classically associated with susceptibility to infection, delayed growth, and fatigue.
Sometimes, anemia is associated with another medical condition, and the symptoms of that condition may be present first. Growing children, pregnant women, and people with a poorly balanced diet are at increased risk of becoming anemic. Patients who develop the symptoms of anemia should make time to visit a healthcare professional to get a blood test and medical exam to determine whether or not the patient is anemic and what the causes might be.
Treatment for anemia can vary, depending on the cause. Increasing iron intake is usually an important part of getting the patient stabilized, so that the medical professional can address the underlying cause. People who are anemic may be asked to refrain from donating blood and to reschedule surgeries, if possible, until their hematocrit levels rise. These precautions are intended to help the patient avoid complications that can be caused by dangerously low iron levels in the blood.