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How Do I Know if I Have Anemia?

Thursday, March 29, 2018 8:26 AM

We hear about anemia often. Some people blame their tiredness on it, talk about how cold they are from it or how they need to eat more spinach in order to donate blood because of it. But what exactly is anemia and how do you know if you have it? Ashwani Garg, MD, Family Medicine at NorthShore, shares the symptoms, and how to get tested and manage anemia.


Anemia is when you do not have enough red blood cells to carry sufficient oxygen to the tissues in the body. Anemia can be temporary or prolonged and range from mild to severe. Causes of anemia can range from a bleeding disorder to cancer to a genetic cause. If you suspect that you have anemia, speak with your primary care physician to add it to tests for your annual exam.

Depending on the severity of anemia, symptoms can vary. Dr. Garg shares the different types of symptoms to look out for:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Cold feet or hands
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Pale skin
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Insomnia

A blood test is usually recommend by your primary care physician as anemia can sometimes be an indicator of another medical issue.

To treat and manage anemia, Dr. Garg recommends speaking with your physician. Treatment options may include:

  • A balanced diet
  • Taking supplements such as iron, vitamin B12 or folic acid, if needed