Zocdoc Answers

Medical questions & health advice by licensed doctors

"What are the signs of anemia?"

ZocdocAnswersWhat are the signs of anemia?


My daughter just went vegetarian. She's a teenager and I know she has to feed her growing body. What are the very first signs of anemia that I should look for? I just want to make sure I catch it if there's anything wrong with her.


Being vegetarian does put people at risk for a specific type of anemia caused by iron deficiency, but with proper dietary intake of vegetarian foods high in iron (spinach, kale, broccoli, legumes, beets, potatoes and soy are just a few that I recommend to my vegetarian patients). As far as the symptoms and signs of anemia, there are many things to look out for, unfortunately many of these symptoms are not necessarily specific for anemia and in fact occur in anemics and non-anemics. I would recommend your daughter has bloodwork done after being on her new diet for a few months to see if she is developing signs of anemia consistent with inadequate iron intake. That being said, there are a few things to look out for. One of the most general symptoms of anemia is feeling fatigued. Anemia is defined by low red blood cells in the circulation. with fewer red blood cells, oxygen is not distributed to muscle and brain as effectively and people generally feel chronically tired. Another sign to watch for are changes in skin tone. with anemia, skin tone becomes more pale. some specific things to check: the conjunctiva of the eye (the fleshy tissue seen when you pull your lower eyelid down) is one of the first areas to become pale with anemia. you can easily check this on your daughter, the conjunctiva should be a fleshy red color, if anemia is present, the conjunctiva tends to be pale. another place to check are in the creases in the palms of the hands. normally these creases should be pinkish/redish in hue whereras in amemics the palmar creases are also pale (this is more useful in hands of lighter skinned individuals). If any of these signs or symptoms are present, your daughter should be seen by a physician. hope this helps!

Zocdoc Answers is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.