Basic Facts

Anemia is a condition in which the number of red blood cells or the concentration of hemoglobin in the red blood cells is lower than normal. Hemoglobin is needed to carry oxygen and if you have too few or abnormal red blood cells, or not enough hemoglobin, there will be a decreased capacity of the blood to carry oxygen to the body’s tissues.  

Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe. Patients with anemia can appear pale, may feel cold, tired, fatigue easily, may have weakness, lightheaded or dizziness, may have impaired balance and increase risk of fall, develop racing heartbeats, and become short of breath. 

Anemia is associated with impaired walking speed or ability to rise from a chair, impaired mental abilities like thinking, remembering, and learning (cognitive performance), depressed symptoms and decreased quality of life. 

Anemia is a common condition in older adults, although it’s not caused by normal aging. It has many causes, including some you can control. For example, in older people, a poor diet can lead to anemia.

Anemia is more common among women than men, but by age 65, it occurs more often in men. It is diagnosed in about 20% of men and 15% of women over age 80.

Types of Anemia

Iron-deficiency Anemia

Iron is one of the main building blocks for red blood cell production. Iron in the body can be too low if your body doesn't absorb iron from your food, if you don't eat enough food that contains iron, or if you are bleeding and losing iron faster than you can replace it. Low iron is a very common reason for red blood cell counts to be low.

Anemia of Chronic Disease

Anemia of chronic disease is a result of chronic inflammation caused by ongoing infections, tissue damage, various forms of arthritis, benign or malignant tumors, or a variety of chronic medical conditions.  

Pernicious Anemia

Pernicious anemia occurs when you do not have enough vitamin B12 or folate. 

Hemolytic Anemia

This type of anemia happens when your red blood cells are destroyed by disease.


Last Updated July 2020