Diagnosis of Anemia

Laboratory tests are necessary to confirm the diagnosis of anemia. Some of the most common are those that measure percent saturation, serum ferritin, and erythrocyte free protoporphyrin.
Diagnosis of Anemia

Written by Maite Córdova Vena, 15 June, 2021

Last update: 15 June, 2021

The diagnosis of anemia is a seemingly straightforward process. However, to get there, the doctor doesn’t only have to take into account aspects such as fatigue or the patient’s paleness. There are many more aspects he’ll have to look into.

Although it’s true that the blood test plays a key role in confirming the diagnosis of anemia, the physical examination and the interview with the patient are also very useful and important. Let’s see more about it below.

Interview and physical exam

Diagnosis of anemia is not easy
It all starts in the consultation with the doctor.

At the consultation, the doctor will most likely listen to your concerns and then ask you several questions. These will be in relation to your lifestyle, medical, and family history. The last point here is because, in some cases, having close relatives with anemia can make you more prone to this health problem.

As Mayo Clinic experts explain, “If your family has a history of inherited anemia, such as sickle cell anemia, you may also be at increased risk for this condition.”

According to the National Committee of Hematology of Argentina, the questions can cover aspects such as:

  • History of perinatal pathology
  • Gastrointestinal disorders (such as diarrhea, among others)
  • Loss of blood (through menstruation, diarrhea, sputum, etc.)
  • History of prematurity, multiple pregnancies and iron deficiency in the mother

When asking you about your lifestyle habits, although it may seem that the doctor is focusing on your diet (consumption of sources of iron, folates, and other nutrients), this won’t be the only aspect that will provide clues about the type of anemia you may have.

It will take into account your alcohol consumption (if any), consumption of other medications, itching (whether you have it or not) etc.

Regarding the physical examination, according to scientific evidence, this usually includes the situation of tissue oxygenation and loss of volume, condition of the skin, nails and hair, and blood pressure.

If you go for a consultation because you suspect that you may have some type of anemia, it’s important that you provide the doctor with all the details they request and that you share all your doubts and concerns. This will help refine the diagnosis.

Lab tests

The blood test is a routine test that experts recommend that you carry out once or twice a year to get to know your state of health in greater detail, in order to be able to detect any problems early on, including the possibility of developing anemia.

It also helps to monitor existing health problems and monitor how medical treatment is going. Consequently, it can be said that it’s a test that serves as a guide in an initial diagnostic phase.

The results of the blood test provide clues that the specialist can use to request additional tests, such as a complete blood count.

Complete blood count

Diagnosis of anemia includes laboratory techniques
Blood tests are essential for a definitive diagnosis.

The complete blood count is a blood test that allows you to get to know in more detail the levels and characteristics of:

  • Red blood cells
  • White blood cells
  • Hemoglobin
  • The hematocrit
  • Platelets

Tests that assess iron status

If iron deficiency anemia is suspected, your doctor may request tests to assess your iron status. In these, several different aspects are measured, such as the total saturation capacity of iron, for example.

Therapeutic test

As explained by the team from the National Committee of Hematology of Argentina, the therapeutic test “consists of administering ferrous sulfate at therapeutic doses (3-6 mg/kg/day) and evaluating the erythropoietic response.”

The experts from the Clínica Universidad de Navarra add that “the full study, once anemia is detected, will require expanding the analytical study, examining a peripheral blood smear and, in some cases, performing an aspirate or biopsy of the bone marrow”.

Final recommendations

Until your doctor tells you what the diagnosis and treatment for your condition is, avoid taking measures on your own. Don’t take vitamin or iron supplements without their authorization, as it could be counterproductive.

Once you have the diagnosis and treatment, follow the recommendations that your doctor gives you about how to look after yourself correctly, and, little by little, start leading a healthier lifestyle.

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