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Doctors can easily detect anemia by drawing a blood sample for a complete blood count. Based on the results of the test and thorough evaluation of the patient, the doctor may order more tests to determine the exact cause of anemia. The complete blood count may be done as part of a routine general check-up or based upon the presence of signs and symptoms suggestive of anemia.
Physical examination and medical history also play a crucial role in diagnosing causes of anemia. Some of the important features in medical history cover questions about family history, previous personal history of anemia or other chronic conditions, medications, color of stool and urine, bleeding problems, and occupation and social habits (such as alcohol intake). While performing a complete physical examination, the physician may particularly focus on general appearance (signs of fatigue, paleness), jaundice (yellow skin and eyes), paleness of the nail beds, enlarged spleen (splenomegaly) or liver (hepatomegaly), heart sounds, and lymph nodes.
Because anemia is only a symptom of another disease, doctors will want to determine what condition is causing the anemia. Some people may need many additional tests, and others may need very few. For example, an anemic person with known stomach ulcers typically would not need multiple blood tests, but may need to have his or her stomach visually evaluated and have the ulcers treated. On the other hand, a person with a family history of anemia and without an obvious source of blood loss may need multiple laboratory blood tests and other types of diagnostic evaluation. Doctors also take into consideration the severity of the anemia when deciding what tests to order. When a person has severe anemia, the cause must be determined rapidly so that it can be treated appropriately.
Lab tests for anemia generally include the following:
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/27/2012
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