Menu   WellSpan Health

Health Library

Health Library


What is anemia?

Anemia is a common blood disorder that occurs when there are fewer red blood cells than normal, and there is not enough hemoglobin transported to supply the body:

  • Hemoglobin. This is the part of red blood cells that distribute oxygen from the lungs to tissues in the body and carries carbon dioxide back to the lungs to be removed from the body.

  • Hematocrit. The measurement of the percentage of red blood cells found in a specific volume of blood.

Anemia is often a symptom of a disease rather than a disease itself. Anemia usually develops due to the presence of one of the following:

  • Excessive blood loss or hemorrhaging

  • Deficient production of red blood cells

  • Excessive red blood cell destruction

  • Both decreased production and excessive destruction of red blood cells

  • Sequestration (the pooling of red cells in the spleen, an organ in your abdomen that helps fight infections)

What are the symptoms of anemia?

Most symptoms of anemia are a result of the decrease of oxygen in the cells or hypoxia. Because red blood cells, as hemoglobin, carry oxygen, a decreased production or number of these cells result in hypoxia. Many of the symptoms will not be present with mild anemia as the body can often compensate for gradual changes in hemoglobin.

The following are the most common symptoms for anemia:

  • Abnormal paleness or lack of color of the skin

  • Increased heart rate

  • Breathlessness, or difficulty catching a breath

  • Lack of energy, or tiring easily (fatigue)

  • Dizziness, or vertigo, especially when standing

  • Headache

  • Irritability

  • Irregular menstruation cycles

  • Absent or delayed menstruation

  • Sore or swollen tongue

  • Jaundice, or yellowing of skin, eyes, and mouth

  • Enlarged spleen or liver (splenomegaly, hepatomegaly)

  • Slow or delayed growth and development

  • Impaired wound and tissue healing

The symptoms of anemia may look like other blood disorders or medical problems. Because anemia is often a symptom associated with another disease, it is important for your child's doctor to be aware of symptoms he or she may be experiencing. Always consult your child's doctor for a diagnosis.

What causes anemia?

Generally, anemia may be caused by several problems, including the following:

  • Infection

  • Certain diseases

  • Certain medications

  • Poor nutrition

What are the different types of anemia?

  • Iron deficiency anemia

  • Megaloblastic (pernicious) anemia

  • Hemolytic anemia

  • Sickle cell anemia

  • Cooley's anemia (thalassemia)

  • Aplastic anemia

  • Chronic anemia

How is anemia diagnosed?

Anemia may be suspected on a complete medical history and physical exam of your child, such as complaints of tiring easily, pale skin and lips, shortness of breath, or a fast heartbeat. Anemia is usually discovered during a medical exam through blood tests that measure the concentration of hemoglobin and the number of red blood cells.

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, other tests may include:

  • Additional blood tests

  • Bone marrow aspiration and/or biopsy. A procedure that involves taking a small amount of bone marrow fluid (aspiration) and/or solid bone marrow tissue (called a core biopsy), usually from the hip bones, to be examined for the number, size, and maturity of blood cells and/or abnormal cells.

Treatments for anemia

Your child’s health care provider will figure out the best treatment based on:

  • How old your child is

  • His or her overall health and medical history

  • How sick he or she is

  • How well your child can handle specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • How long the condition is expected to last

  • Your opinion or preference

Anemia can be difficult to treat and may include:

  • Vitamin and mineral supplements

  • Change in your child's diet

  • Medication and/or discontinuing causative medications

  • Treatment of the causative disorder

  • Surgery to remove spleen (if related to hemolytic anemia)

  • Blood transfusions, if necessary (to replace significant loss)

  • Antibiotics (if infection is causative agent)

  • Bone marrow transplant (for aplastic anemia)

Anemia - WellSpan Health

Online Medical Reviewer: Foster, Sara, RN, MPH
Last Review Date: 2015-01-07T00:00:00
Last Modified Date: 2015-01-19T00:00:00
Posting Date: 2008-11-30T00:00:00
Published Date: 2015-01-19T00:00:00
Last Review Date: 2007-03-30T00:00:00
© 2015 WellSpan Health. All Rights Reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

I would like to:

Are you sure you would like to cancel?

All information will be lost.

Yes No ×

About the provider search

This search will provide you with WellSpan Medical Group and Northern Lancaster County (Ephrata) Medical Group primary care physicians and specialists. If we don’t have a WellSpan Medical Group physician to meet your criteria, the search will expand to include community physicians who partner with WellSpan Medical Group physicians through the WellSpan Provider Network or provide care to patients on the Medical Staffs of WellSpan’s Hospitals.


Schedule Your Next Appointment Online with MyWellSpan

Use your MyWellSpan patient portal any time to view available appointments, and pick the date and time that best suits your schedule.

Go to MyWellSpan

New to this practice?

If you don't have a WellSpan primary care provider and would like to schedule a new patient appointment with a provider who is accepting patients, just log into your MyWellSpan account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to see the offices that are accepting new patients in relation to your zip code. If you are not enrolled in MyWellSpan, go to, call 1-866-638-1842 or speak with a member of the staff at a participating facility to sign up. New patient scheduling not available at all practices/programs.

Already a patient at this practice?

If you already have a relationship with a WellSpan practice, simply log into your account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to schedule an appointment with any provider or practice that already counts you as a patient. Online scheduling varies by practice/program.