by McCarthy AA
(Anemia of Chronic Disease; Hypoferremia of Inflammatory Disease; ACD)


Anemia is a low level of healthy red blood cells (RBCs). RBCs carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. When red blood cells are low, the body does not get enough oxygen. This can happen when a person has another health problem.

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The reasons why someone has fewer RBCs can be:

  • The red blood cells are not living as long as they should
  • The body is not making enough new red blood cells
  • The body has less of a hormone that tells it to make the cells
  • The body is not using iron the right way

The cause of anemia is not always known.

Conditions that can lead to anemia over time include:

Risk Factors

Anyone with one of the conditions listed above may be at risk. Older people are also at higher risk for it.


Anemia often develops slowly. There may be few or no symptoms. Most symptoms are mild but may include:

  • Pale skin
  • Lightheadedness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Fatigue


You will be asked about your symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. Blood tests will show how many RBCs you have and how healthy they are. A diagnosis can be made based on blood tests and your health history.


Anemia may get better if the underlying disease is treated. Some people may also benefit from iron supplements.

Blood transfusions may be needed if the anemia is severe. These give healthy RBCs from a donor.

Medicine may also be used to help RBCs grow.


It is not clear how to prevent this anemia. Managing some health problems may reduce the risk of it.


Iron Disorders Institute 

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute 


Canadian Cancer Society 

Health Canada 


Anemia of inflammation. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed May 12, 2022.

Ganz T. Anemia of Inflammation. N Engl J Med, 2019; 381: 1148-1157.

Weiss G, Ganz T, Goodnough LT. Anemia of inflammation. Blood, 2019; 133(1): 40-50.

What is anemia? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: Accessed May 12, 2022.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD
  • Review Date: 03/2022
  • Update Date: 05/12/2022