Anemia or anaemia (British English) is a blood disorder in which the blood has a reduced ability to carry oxygen due to a lower than normal number of red blood cells, or a reduction in the amount of hemoglobin. When anemia comes on slowly, the symptoms are often vague, such as tiredness, weakness, shortness of breath, headaches, and a poor ability to exercise. When the anemia comes on quickly, symptoms may include confusion, feeling faint, loss of consciousness, and increased thirst. Anemia must be significant before a person becomes noticeably pale. Additional symptoms may occur depending on the underlying cause. Preoperative anemia can increase the risk of needing a blood transfusion following surgery. Anemia can be temporary or long term and can range from mild to severe.
Anemia can be caused by blood loss, decreased red blood cell production, and increased red blood cell breakdown. Causes of bleeding include trauma and gastrointestinal bleeding. Causes of decreased production include iron deficiency, vitamin B12 deficiency, thalassemia and a number of bone marrow tumors. Causes of increased breakdown include genetic disorders such as sickle cell anemia, infections such as malaria, and certain autoimmune diseases. Anemia can also be classified based on the size of the red blood cells and amount of hemoglobin in each cell. If the cells are small, it is called microcytic anemia; if they are large, it is called macrocytic anemia; and if they are normal sized, it is called normocytic anemia. The diagnosis of anemia in men is based on a hemoglobin of less than 130 to 140 g/L (13 to 14 g/dL); in women, it is less than 120 to 130 g/L (12 to 13 g/dL). Further testing is then required to determine the cause.
A large number of patients diagnosed with anemia of chronic disease present with no active inflammation or dietary issues. These include many with reduced limb loading, such as spinal cord injured patients, astronauts, elderly people with limited mobility, bed-bound and experimental bed-rest subjects.
Certain groups of individuals, such as pregnant women, benefit from the use of iron pills for prevention. Dietary supplementation, without determining the specific cause, is not recommended. The use of blood transfusions is typically based on a person's signs and symptoms. In those without symptoms, they are not recommended unless hemoglobin levels are less than 60 to 80 g/L (6 to 8 g/dL). These recommendations may also apply to some people with acute bleeding. Erythropoiesis-stimulating agents are only recommended in those with severe anemia.
Anemia is the most common blood disorder, affecting about a third of the global population. Iron-deficiency anemia affects nearly 1 billion people. In 2013, anemia due to iron deficiency resulted in about 183,000 deaths – down from 213,000 deaths in 1990. This condition is most prevalent in children with also an above average prevalence in elderly and women of reproductive age (especially during pregnancy). The name is derived from Ancient Greek: ἀναιμία anaimia, meaning "lack of blood", from ἀν- an-, "not" and αἷμα haima, "blood".
Anemia is one of the six WHO global nutrition targets for 2025 and for diet-related global targets endorsed by World Health Assembly in 2012 and 2013. Efforts to reach global targets contribute to reaching Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with anemia as one of the targets in SDG 2 for achieving zero world hunger.