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Signs and symptoms of anemia in teens


It's not uncommon for teens to suffer from fatigue. The teenage years are characterized by growth spurts, and as a result, young people need more sleep. For some, however, anemia might be the underlying cause of constant fatigue.

Anemia is a condition that occurs when a person has fewer red blood cells than normal. It can manifest in a variety of ways: blood loss anemia, iron deficiency anemia or hemolytic anemia – which may occur hand-in-hand with disorders like sickle cell anemia or spherocytosis.

Signs and symptoms of anemia may vary, but you should typically look for the following:

  • Pale skin. Looking pale can be a sign of anemia. As fewer red blood cells circulate through the vessels, the skin may take on a sallow or pale quality.
  • Rapid heart rate. As the heart beats faster to pump blood and oxygen to the body due to a lower red blood cell count, a person's pulse may be faster than normal.
  • Shortness of breath. As anemia progresses throughout the years, a person might experience shortness of breath when doing normal activities, like climbing stairs or exercising.
  • Cognitive problems. Iron deficiency anemia can affect a person's ability to concentrate, so teens may experience memory or learning problems in school.

Diagnosing anemia requires a doctor visit, and treating the condition usually involves changes in diet or taking iron supplements. If anemia is caused by an underlying medical condition, your doctor will first work to treat the cause. Some people may need to see a hematologist, who can provide more specialized care.