Don’t Ignore These 5 Signs of Anemia

Are you feeling tired, weak, or short of breath? These could be signs of anemia. Anemia is a condition in which your body doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells. This can cause a variety of symptoms, including fatigue, shortness of breath, pale skin, and chest pain. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor to get checked for anemia.

Generally, the classic anemia symptom is fatigue or weakness. (Think of it as a never-ending feeling of exhaustion.) However, this isn’t always the primary or most noticeable symptom.

Some people may experience indicators a few days or weeks before the more significant anemia symptoms, says family doctor Natalia Hapych, MD. And those early signs of anemia can be far more subtle than you might anticipate.

Comprehending early anemia symptoms could significantly improve your health or the well-being of those around you. Dr. Hapych shares crucial insights so you can recognize who’s at risk for anemia, learn the early warning signs, and understand when to seek medical advice.

Anemia Warning Signs

Most cases of anemia result from a lack of iron, leading to fewer red blood cells or hemoglobin in your body. Hemoglobin is the part of your red blood cells that bind and transport oxygen. Without enough of it, your tissues don’t receive the oxygen they need, causing various symptoms. Anemia can be serious if it’s not addressed promptly.

Anemia often manifests subtly and may not be immediately associated with a health problem. A person may feel unusually tired, have difficulty concentrating, and exhibit pale skin — all without prior warning.

But, Dr. Hapych states, anemia doesn’t always come on suddenly, and the signs may not be obvious.

Some of the common early warning signs of anemia may not seem alarming and can be easy to dismiss. These include:

  • Unusual or persistent fatigue: Feeling tired all the time, even after a good night’s sleep.
  • Shortness of breath: Feeling like you can’t catch your breath, especially with exertion.
  • Pale or yellowish skin: Your skin may look paler than usual, especially your lips, gums, and the inside of your eyelids.
  • Chest pain: You may feel a tightness or pain in your chest, especially when you exercise.
  • Irregular heartbeat: You may feel your heart beating irregularly or too fast.

Anemia Symptoms in Men vs. Women

The World Health Organization states fatigue is the most common symptom of anemia, regardless of sex. But women and people assigned female at birth (AFAB) are more likely to experience some of the less-noticeable symptoms due to menstruation.

When you couple that with the common misunderstanding that men are less likely to develop anemia, it’s a recipe for danger.

“If you’re experiencing some of these subtle symptoms of anemia, and you don’t think you’re at risk for anemia, it makes it easier to ignore those warning signs and brush them off as something else,” Dr. Hapych warns. “That means a delay in seeking care and a higher potential for serious complications.”

In reality, anemia affects both men and women. So, any sign of anemia should be taken very seriously.

Are You at Risk of Anemia?

Anyone, regardless of age, sex, or health status, can develop anemia. However, some conditions and lifestyle choices raise your risk for anemia. You might be at a higher risk if you have:

  • A diet lacking in iron, vitamin B12, and folate.
  • A history of certain infections, blood diseases, and autoimmune disorders.
  • A history of certain medications and treatments.
  • Chronic or recent blood loss.
  • Pregnancy.

If you fall into any of these categories, be extra vigilant if you experience vague symptoms that might be related to anemia.

“Early treatment is key to preventing severe anemia,” Dr. Hapych says. “It’s important to listen to your body and seek care as soon as possible.”

What to Do if You Think You’re Anemic

People who suspect they have anemia are often hesitant to consult a doctor. After all, fatigue or dizziness can have many other, less serious causes. But if there’s even a chance you’re anemic, Dr. Hapych says you should never hesitate to seek medical care. It’s better to act quickly and early for the best possible outcome.

Anemia left untreated can lead to severe fatigue and other health problems—treatments for anemia range from taking supplements to undergoing medical procedures.

“Time is crucial,” Dr. Hapych stresses. “The sooner your doctor starts treatment, the better your outcome.”

Hence, if you suspect you’re anemic, it’s best to consult with a healthcare provider promptly. They can perform a quick and simple blood test to confirm whether you’re anemic and help you devise a treatment plan.

Remember, even if your anemia symptoms begin mildly, they can quickly worsen. Some people can become so fatigued that they can’t complete everyday tasks. It’s crucial to get medical help before you reach this stage.

Even if you consider yourself healthy, it’s important to know the signs of anemia — and act fast if you experience them.

“When in doubt, don’t hesitate to seek medical advice,” Dr. Hapych advises.

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