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Anemia symptoms are caused by inadequate oxygen reaching important organs, such as your muscles, heart, and brain. As a consequence, your heart and lungs have to work harder to deliver oxygen to these organs.

Those who have nutritional anemia, especially mild anemia, may have no symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they might include:

  • Loss of stamina
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Paleness
  • Headache
  • Worsening of symptoms of other diseases:
    • Chest pains—angina
    • Cramping in muscles when they are being used—claudication

In addition, people with iron-deficiency anemia may have cravings for ice or clay. People with anemia due to vitamin B 12 deficiency may experience confusion, clumsiness, or even dementia. People with either B 12 or folic acid deficiency may have a very smooth and sore tongue or other sores in the mouth. Those whose deficiency is due to bowel disorders may have diarrhea, unusually smelly stools, and/or weight loss.


Anemia—differential diagnosis. Updated September 23, 2015. Accessed September 29, 2015.

Culleton, BF, Manns, BJ, Zhang J, et al. Impact of anemia on hospitalization and mortality in older adults. Blood. 2006;107(10):3841-3846.

Decreased erythropoiesis. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: Updated May 2013. Accessed September 29, 2015.

Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 16th ed. McGraw-Hill; 2004.

What are the signs and symptoms of anemia? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: Updated May 18, 2012. Accessed September 29, 2015.

Last reviewed September 2015 by Marcin Chwistek, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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