A health care provider diagnoses anemia based on
a medical history
a physical exam
Taking a medical history is one of the first things a health care provider may do to diagnose anemia. He or she will usually ask about the patient’s symptoms.
A physical exam may help diagnose anemia. During a physical exam, a health care provider usually examines a patient’s body, including checking for changes in skin color.
To diagnose anemia, a health care provider may order a complete blood count, which measures the type and number of blood cells in the body. A blood test involves drawing a patient’s blood at a health care provider’s office or a commercial facility. A health care provider will carefully monitor the amount of hemoglobin in the patient’s blood, one of the measurements in a complete blood count.
The Kidney Disease: Improving Global Outcomes Anemia Work Group recommends that health care providers diagnose anemia in males older than age 15 when their hemoglobin falls below 13 grams per deciliter (g/dL) and in females older than 15 when it falls below 12 g/dL.2 If someone has lost at least half of normal kidney function and has low hemoglobin, the cause of anemia may be decreased EPO production.
Two other blood tests help measure iron levels:
The ferritin level helps assess the amount of iron stored in the body. A ferritin score below 200 nanograms (ng) per milliliter may mean a person has iron deficiency that requires treatment.2
The transferrin saturation score indicates how much iron is available to make red blood cells. A transferrin saturation score below 30 percent can also mean low iron levels that require treatment.2
In addition to blood tests, the health care provider may order other tests, such as tests for blood loss in stool, to look for other causes of anemia.