Special Populations

Special Populations: Anemia


Anemia is a deficiency of healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells are the primary transporters of oxygen within the body. Anemia also causes iron deficiency; the primary reason fatigue is a common symptom.

Anemia affects about 4 million Americans. Women, and individuals with a chronic disease, are at an increased risk. Women in their childbearing years are particularly susceptible to a form of anemia called iron-deficiency anemia, because of the blood loss from menstruation and the increased blood supply demands of a pregnancy. Seniors also may have a greater risk of developing anemia because of medical conditions.

There are three types of anemia:

Anemia caused by blood loss.

Anemia caused by decreased or faulty red blood cell production.

Anemia caused by destruction of red blood cells.

The symptoms of anemia vary, according to the type. Anemia may be associated with other medical conditions such as an ulcer, hemorrhage or cancer.

The most common symptoms associated with anemia are:


Rapid heartbeat

Difficulty concentrating

Shortness of breath and headache, particularly with exercise



Pale skin

Leg cramps

Symptoms of anemia caused by sudden red blood cell destruction:

Blood in urine


Small bruises


Abdominal pain

Symptoms of anemia caused by chronic red blood cell destruction:


Blood in urine

Leg ulcers

Infancy problems

Symptoms of gallstones

Symptoms of anemia caused by iron deficiency:

Hunger for strange substances such as paper, ice, or dirt (a condition called pica)

Upward curvature of the nails referred to as koilonychias

Soreness of the mouth with cracks at the corners

Symptoms of anemia caused by chronic lead poisoning:

A blue-black line on the gums referred to as a lead line



Abdominal pain

Symptoms of anemia caused by vitamin B-12 deficiency:

Loss of sense of touch

A tingling sensation in the hands or feet

Difficulty walking


Clumsiness and stiffness of the arms and legs

Hallucinations, paranoia and schizophrenia

Symptoms of Sickle cell anemia:


Susceptibility to infection

Delayed growth and development in children

Episodes of severe pain, especially in the joints, abdomen and limbs

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