10 Anemia Symptoms That May Mean You Have Low Hemoglobin

The most common symptoms of anemia are frequent fatigue, pale skin, low mood, constant headache, brittle nails, dizziness and loss of appetite. 

Anemia symptoms are usually related to decreased hemoglobin levels in the blood. Hemoglobin is a component of red blood cells that is responsible for transporting oxygen to the rest of the body. This can happen with a low iron diet, changes to how iron is absorbed, or with a very heavy-flow period.

It is important to consult a doctor if you notice signs or symptoms of anemia so that the doctor can identify the underlying cause and treat as necessary. The doctor may recommend diet changes and/or iron supplementation. 

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Anemia symptoms

The most common symptoms of anemia are: 

  1. Frequent fatigue
  2. Pale skin, pale gums and pale inner eyelids 
  3. Decreased overall mood 
  4. Constant headache
  5. Brittle hair and nails 
  6. Loss of appetite 
  7. Memory problems or difficulty concentrating 
  8. Urge to eat non-edible things, like bricks or dirt
  9. Dizziness
  10. Changes to heart rate, in some cases 

If you notice signs or symptoms of anemia, you should see a doctor for blood work and assessment. If confirmed the doctor will initiate treatment. 

Symptoms quiz

If you think you may have anemia, enter your symptoms below to assess your risk: 

  1. 1. Memory loss or difficulty concentrating
  2. 2. Inexplicable urge to eat something strange, like bricks or dirt
  3. 3. Easily irritated
  4. 4. Constant headache
  5. 5. Low mood and lack of productivity
  6. 6. Pale skin
  7. 7. Lack of energy and excessive fatigue

This symptoms checker is just a tool, and is not able to diagnose anemia. This quiz does not replace an assessment with a doctor. 

Anemia diagnosis 

To confirm the presence of anemia, bloodwork should be ordered to assess hemoglobin levels. The doctor may also order additional testing to check iron, vitamin b12 and folic acid levels, as well as tests that assess liver and kidney function. 

Normal hemoglobin levels vary depending on age and life stage. Anemia is typically diagnosed when hemoglobin levels are less than 115g/L in adult women and less than 135 g/L in men. Pregnant women should have a hemoglobin of at least 110 g/L. 

Treatment options

Treatment for anemia normally involves increasing iron intake through diet. Foods like red meat, beans and beats, for example, are high-iron foods. Doctors may also recommend iron supplements or even a blood transfusion, for more severe cases. 

1. What to eat

To treat anemia, it is important to eat plenty of foods with iron, like red meat, organ meat, chicken, fish, seafood, spinach, broccoli and seeds. Learn more about iron-rich foods to incorporate into your diet. 

You should also try to eat these iron sources with a vitamin C source, like cashews, cherries, pineapple and guava. Vitamin C foods help to increase iron absorption in the body. 

2. Iron supplementation

To treat moderate to severe anemia, the doctor may recommend iron supplements, like ferrous sulfate, ferrous gluconate or ferrous hydroxide: 

  • Children under 5: 3 mg of iron per kilo of body weight, for 3 months
  • Adults: 120 mg of iron per day, for 3 months 
  • Pregnant women: 60 mg of iron, twice per day, until hemoglobin levels have normalized 

To optimize iron absoprtion, you should take your iron supplement with lunch or dinner, and ideally with a citrus fruit, like oranges, lemons or tangerines