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Anemia (Pediatric)

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What is anemia?

Anemia is a condition in which the body lacks enough red blood cells or has an insufficient or abnormal hemoglobin, the main protein that carries oxygen to the bodies’ tissues and organs. 

Anemia is the most common blood condition affecting about 3.5 million Americans. Children are at increased risk of developing it.

What causes anemia?

Different underlying disease processes cause anemia. There are more than 400 types of anemia with varying causes and treatments. Some are inherited and lead to lifelong health problems, while others are acquired and transient. Anemia may be categorized in three major ways:

Anemia caused by blood loss.

  • Acute bleeding with trauma 
  • Chronic bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract  
  • Excessive menstruation

Anemia caused by decreased or faulty red blood cell production.

  • Nutritional deficiencies such as iron, folate, and vitamin B12
  • Bone marrow failure syndromes
  • Bone marrow replacement such as cancer and leukemia
  • Thalassemia 

Anemia caused by destruction of red blood cells.

  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Hereditary spherocytosis
  • Red blood cell enzyme deficiencies such as G6PD deficiency
  • Autoimmune hemolytic anemia

What are the symptoms of anemia?

  • Fatigue 
  • Pallor 
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heart rate

How is anemia diagnosed?

  • History and physical exam 
  • Complete blood count
  • Examination of the blood smear to identify red blood cell morphology
  • Specific tests to identify the etiology based on the above results