Diagnosis & Tests

The cause(s) of anemia in older adults can be difficult to diagnosis. Many conditions can cause anemia in older people, and several of them may occur at the same time. Even with a thorough evaluation, in 20% of cases the underlying cause of anemia is not found. If you have any symptoms of anemia, your healthcare provider will conduct a thorough history, a physical exam, and take a blood sample for a complete blood count.

Anemia is diagnosed if the amount of hemoglobin (the part of the blood cell that carries oxygen) is lower than normal (under 13 g/dL in men and under 12 g/dL in women). Your provider may also test your blood to measure your iron, vitamin B12, and folate levels, and may recommend special blood tests to determine how well your body stores and uses iron.

Your healthcare provider may conduct additional tests to determine whether you have an underlying illness or problems such as ulcers or polyps, which could cause chronic internal bleeding. These tests might include:

  • additional blood tests
  • x-rays
  • endoscopy (looking inside your stomach or intestines through a tube) 
  • bone marrow biopsy.


Last Updated July 2020