Mild anemia can have several causes, including iron or B12 deficiency, chronic illness, or pregnancy.
Mild anemia occurs when you have slightly lower than normal levels of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body.
Anemia is very common, affecting up to
Anemia can occur in all ages, sexes, and genders, but it’s more common in females of reproductive age, pregnant people, and older adults.
There are several possible causes of mild anemia, including:
- Iron deficiency: This is the most common cause of anemia. Iron is needed to produce hemoglobin, so when the body lacks iron, it can’t make enough hemoglobin, and iron deficiency anemia may develop.
- Vitamin deficiency: A lack of certain vitamins, such as vitamin B12 or folate, can lead to anemia. These vitamins are needed for red blood cell production.
- Chronic diseases: Chronic diseases such as kidney disease, liver disease, and inflammatory bowel disease can affect red blood cell production, leading to anemia.
- Blood loss: Blood loss from injury, surgery, or heavy menstrual bleeding can lead to anemia.
- Inherited conditions: Inherited conditions such as Diamond-Blackfan anemia or thalassemia can cause mild anemia.
- Pregnancy: During pregnancy, the body produces more blood to support the growing fetus. This increased blood volume can dilute the concentration of red blood cells, leading to mild anemia.
- Chronic conditions: Conditions such as HIV or hepatitis can interfere with red blood cell production, leading to anemia.
- Medications: Some medications, such as chemotherapy drugs or antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV, can cause anemia as a side effect.
Mild anemia in pregnancy
During pregnancy, your body produces 40–60% more plasma to support the growing fetus. This increased blood volume can dilute the concentration of red blood cells, leading to a condition known as physiologic anemia, which occurs in pregnancy. Physiologic anemia is usually mild and doesn’t pose a significant risk to your or your baby’s health.
Iron deficiency anemia is also common in pregnancy and accounts for about 75% of all types of anemia during pregnancy. As your blood volume increases during pregnancy, your body also requires more iron to support the growing fetus.
If you have anemia during pregnancy, it’s important to differentiate between iron deficiency anemia, physiologic anemia, and other less common causes of anemia in pregnancy that may require treatment.
If anemia becomes more severe during pregnancy, it can increase the risk of anemia in the baby and blood loss during pregnancy. Be sure to attend regular checkups, and talk with your doctor if you’re displaying symptoms of mild anemia.
Mild anemia may not cause any symptoms, or the symptoms may be so mild that they go unnoticed. However, some people with mild anemia may experience:
- fatigue and weakness
- pale skin
- shortness of breath
- dizziness or lightheadedness
- cold hands and feet
- irregular heartbeat
These symptoms may be more noticeable during physical activity or when you’re under stress.
Is mild anemia harmful?
Mild anemia generally isn’t harmful and doesn’t typically cause long-term health concerns. However, it can lead to symptoms such as fatigue and weakness, which may affect your quality of life.
In some cases, mild anemia can progress to a more severe form if not managed or if the underlying cause isn’t addressed.
Treatment for mild anemia depends on the underlying cause.
If the anemia is caused by a deficiency in certain vitamins or minerals, such as iron, vitamin B12, or folate, increasing your intake of these nutrients through diet or supplements may be recommended.
In some cases, mild anemia can be corrected through changes in dietary habits alone. For instance, increasing the intake of iron-rich foods — such as red meat, poultry, fish, and leafy green vegetables — may help improve mild anemia caused by iron deficiency.
If the underlying cause is more complex, such as a chronic illness, further medical evaluation and treatment may be necessary. This may include medications to treat the underlying condition, such as inflammation or cancer, or procedures, such as blood transfusions.
Did you know?
Supplements can cause interactions with prescription medications you may already be taking. Always talk with your doctor about the appropriate timing for taking your medications and supplements.
Typically, it’s important to wait at least 2 hours after taking a fiber supplement before taking any other supplement or medication.
Here are some methods you may use to monitor anemia symptoms:
- Get regular blood tests: Blood tests can help doctors monitor the level of red blood cells and hemoglobin in your blood. Depending on the severity of your anemia, blood tests may be done every few weeks or months to track progress.
- Take supplements as recommended: If your healthcare team recommends iron supplements or other supplements, it’s important to take them as directed.
- Track your symptoms: Keeping a journal of symptoms, such as fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, and dizziness, can help monitor the severity of your anemia symptoms over time.
- Periodic follow-up appointments: Depending on the underlying cause of anemia and the severity of your symptoms, periodic follow-up appointments with a healthcare professional may be necessary to monitor progress and adjust treatment as needed.
- Eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet: A diet that’s rich in iron, vitamin B12, and folate can help prevent anemia from getting worse. Good sources of iron include red meat, poultry, fish, beans, and dark green leafy vegetables.
Mild anemia occurs when your body doesn’t have enough red blood cells or hemoglobin to transport oxygen effectively to the body’s tissues.
While mild anemia may not always be a cause for immediate concern, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms and seek medical attention if necessary.
By understanding the causes and symptoms of mild anemia, you can take steps to manage the condition and improve your overall health and well-being.