Signs & symptoms of acute anemia

Updated July 19, 2017

Anemia is a disorder caused by lack of red blood cells circulating in the blood stream, resulting in low energy levels and a change in appearance. The signs and symptoms of acute anaemia can come on quickly. Due to the possibly dangerous underlying causes that generally accompany acute anaemia, it is important to recognise the problem immediately and receive treatment as soon as possible.


Anemia is defined as having a low red blood cell count. While an official diagnosis is recommended if anaemia is suspected, anaemia is generally thought to be a symptom of an underlying cause rather than a disorder of its own. Anemia is divided into the categories of chronic and acute anaemia. While the symptoms of the two are similar, acute anaemia differentiates itself by its quick onset and severity.


Signs and symptoms of acute anaemia include uncharacteristic extreme tiredness and fatigue, dizziness and unusual paleness of the skin. Hemorrhaging and hemolysis (a breakdown in the red blood cells) are common underlying causes of acute anaemia, and symptoms should be noticeable. If yellow coloured skin, usually caused by jaundice, and dark urine co-occur, this can be an indicator of hemolysis. A recent trauma and deep bruising of the skin along with signs of acute anaemia may point to internal injury, which could cause the hemorrhaging.


In order to accurately diagnosis acute anaemia and rule out all possible underlying conditions that may be causing its signs and symptoms, it is important that a thorough medical history is given. Acute anaemia can also be caused by exposures to certain drugs, other sources of blood loss and thyroid problems. In order to rule out other diagnosis, a detailed medical family history should also be given, and signs and symptoms should be detailed. Some disorders that could cause acute anaemia may have previously gone unnoticed.


Acute anaemia can have a detrimental and possibly fatal effects. If acute anaemia does not receive immediate medical treatment, death is possible, depending on the cause of the anaemia, as well as trauma to vital organs if the signs are not immediately noticed. Blood transfusions are often necessary in treating acute anaemia. Other simultaneous conditions that occur with acute anaemia symptoms are congestive heart failure and brain damage.


While anaemia is considered a universal condition, age and sex can play a large part in who is more susceptible to acute anaemia. The symptoms generally remain the same despite different causes of acute anaemia. Newborns are sometimes affected by acute anaemia due to birth trauma, or may become anaemic when going through a quick growth spurt. Teenage girls can become anaemic due to unusually heavy periods, and teenagers in general are susceptible to acute anaemia due to rapid growth and lack of nutrition as well. Men with a predisposed genetic condition may have blood that does not clot properly, causing acute anaemia in even the mildest of trauma.


Although it is not common, acute anaemia can occur at the same time as chronic anaemia. The signs and symptoms of chronic anaemia may come on slowly, until a person has become used to a lower energy level. A sudden onset of more severe lethargy should not be ignored. While chronic anaemia is not always serious and can be treated medicinally, acute anaemia often needs much more serious and immediate attention, and any signs or symptoms should be quickly followed by a visit to an clinic or emergency room.

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About the Author

Tara Pfahler is a freelance writer and child care provider in St. Petersburg, FL. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in creative writing from Bowling Green State University, and is currently working on her first book.