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Anemia in Adolescence: Its Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

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Adolescence is a time for growth and development, and prevention and treatment of anemia during this time are important. Read the article to know more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Abdul Aziz Khan

Published At August 30, 2023
Reviewed AtAugust 30, 2023


Iron is an essential nutrient for our bodies because we cannot make it ourselves. Iron is so essential to the body that it is referred to as ‘gold.’ Most of the iron in the body is found as part of a protein called hemoglobin. It is found in red blood cells. Hemoglobin in the blood carries oxygen. Hemoglobin carries oxygen to other parts of the body.

Anemia is a major public health problem affecting women and children. Anemia in boys and girls limits development and learning, decreases the ability to concentrate on routine tasks, and increases susceptibility to infection. It increases school dropout rates and reduces physical fitness and labor productivity. Anemia in pregnant girls is associated with prematurity and low birth body weight, and perinatal and maternal mortality. Adolescence is a favorable time for interventions to treat anemia, a critical period of growth and development. In adolescent girls, iron intake is essential during pregnancy, apart from meeting needs for growth.

What Is Anemia?

Human blood contains a red pigment called hemoglobin, which is rich in iron. It supplies oxygen to different parts of the body. A lack of iron in the diet leads to a decrease in the amount of iron and hemoglobin, leading to the blood becoming thinner, less red, and reduced oxygen supply. This condition is called anemia.

What Are the Causes of Anemia in Adolescence?

There are many different types of anemia according to their causes. A nutrition deficiency anemia or non-nutritive cause (heavy or chronic bleeding, infection, genetic disease, or cancer) can exist. Nutrition deficiency anemia, in particular, is the most common form of anemia in the country.

Nutritional Causes:

  • Iron Deficiency Anemia - Low iron intake leads to iron deficiency in the body.

  • Low Bioavailability - Regular consumption of a phytic-rich grain-based diet, malabsorption of iron absorption enhancers such as Vitamin C, and low availability of iron.

  • Nutritional Deficiency - Dietary deficiency of vitamins such as Folic Acid, Vitamin C, and Vitamin B12.

Non-Nutritional Causes:

  • Accelerated increase in adolescent iron requirements.

  • Hookworm invasion.

  • Infectious diseases such as malaria.

  • Blood loss during heavy menstrual bleeding.

  • Teenage marriage and early pregnancy.

  • Stress and consequences on physically and physiologically immature bodies of girls.

  • Anemia, maternal mortality, and increased chances of conception.

  • Complications and delivery of low birth weight infants.

What Are the Risk Factors for Anemia in Adolescence?

Females are generally more prone to getting anemia than men due to smaller stores of iron, and the onset of menstruation will require more iron to compensate for menstrual blood loss.

What Are the Symptoms of Anemia in Adolescence?

The symptoms of anemia in adolescence are listed below:

  • Whiteness or pallor of the inner eyelids, tongue, skin, fingernails, and palms of the hand.

  • Sore mouth and cracks in the corners of the lips.

  • Excessive dizziness, tiredness, exhaustion, and lack of energy.

  • An abnormally fast heart rate.

  • Shortness of breath and frequent headaches, especially during exercise.

  • Lack of interest in play or study.

  • Difficulty in concentrating.

  • Cramps in legs.

  • Reduced immunity.

When to Get Help for Anemia in Adolescence?

Anemia may increase the risk of a heart attack. Seek emergency medical help if any of the following signs are noticed:

  • Trouble breathing.

  • Chest pain.

  • Nausea.

  • Sweating.

How Is Anemia in Adolescence Diagnosed?

A definitive diagnosis of anemia can only be made by a blood test. Hb (hemoglobin) tests are carried out at public health centers to check hemoglobin levels in blood. A normal Hb value for men is 14-18 g/dl, and for women is 12 to 16 g/dl.

What Are the Complications of Anemia in Adolescence?

Anemia causes various complications, such as fatigue, dementia, reduced mobility of joints, and poor quality of life. It also increases mortality by causing chronic diseases such as heart failure and kidney failure. Anemia adversely affects cognitive performance in adolescents.

How to Treat and Prevent Anemia in Adolescence?

The ways to treat and prevent anemia in adolescence are listed below:

  1. Primary prevention of anemia is achieved with a balanced diet rich in iron and other vitamins and minerals involved in iron absorption or the production of red blood cells and hemoglobin. Incorporating the following foods into the diet helps prevent anemia in adolescents:

  • Green leafy vegetables and fruits.

  • Grains-wheat, sprouted pulses, ground nuts, sesame, jaggery, dried fruits.

  • Liver, egg, fish, and meat.

  • Vitamin C-rich foods help in the absorption of iron. Citrus fruits like lemon, orange, apple, and pear are rich in vitamin C.

  1. Anemia among adolescents can also be prevented with the help of regular consumption of iron and folic acid tablets and supplements.

  2. Prevention and treatment of hookworm infestation by deworming reduce worm load and blood loss, which prevents anemia. To prevent hookworm infestation, one should maintain good personal hygiene. Deworming medications, like Albendazole 400 mg tablet, can be taken six months apart.

  3. Malaria can be prevented by keeping surroundings clean and using insecticide and mosquito repellents.

  4. Early identification and referral of suspected cases of anemia constitute an important measure of secondary prevention of anemia.


Anemia occurs when there are not enough red blood cells or red blood cells are not working well. Some people are born with anemia, but most people with anemia develop the condition over time. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to changes in the body. In most cases, anemia is a short-term problem and can be easily managed by changing the diet and taking supplements. If left untreated, anemia can lead to serious medical problems. Adolescence is a period of growth and development that makes it important to prevent conditions that can prevent a person from thriving and utilizing their full body potential.

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Dr. Abdul Aziz Khan
Dr. Abdul Aziz Khan

Medical oncology


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