Normocytic anemia happens when you have fewer red blood cells than normal, and those blood cells don’t have the normal amount of hemoglobin. Most people develop normocytic anemia because they have an underlying chronic illness. Healthcare providers treat normocytic anemia by treating the underlying illness.
Normocytic anemia happens when you have fewer red blood cells than normal, and those blood cells don’t have the normal amount of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein in your red blood cells. It helps red blood cells carry oxygen throughout your body.
Healthcare providers may refer to normocytic anemia as a medical condition or as a sign of other conditions. Sometimes, people have normocytic anemia because they have an inherited condition. Most of the time, people develop normocytic anemia because they have an underlying chronic illness. Healthcare providers treat normocytic anemia by treating the underlying condition.
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Three main things cause normocytic anemia. You may develop normocytic anemia if:
Your bone marrow makes stem cells that mature and become red blood cells, along with white blood cells and platelets. Your bone marrow normally produces enough red blood cells to maintain the steady flow your body needs. Some medical conditions may disrupt that process:
Normal red blood cells live 120 days after they’re released into your bloodstream from your bone marrow. Abnormal red blood cells break down earlier than that. You may have abnormal blood cells because you inherited or developed certain conditions that make your red blood cells break down faster than normal. Examples include:
Normocytic anemia symptoms take time to develop. You can have normocytic anemia and not notice any changes in your body. Symptoms you may notice include:
Healthcare providers use blood tests to diagnose normocytic anemia:
Normocytic anemia is a sign of an underlying and undiagnosed medical condition. If that’s your situation, your healthcare provider may do more tests to diagnose the underlying condition. For example, if your healthcare provider thinks you have normocytic anemia because you have chronic kidney disease, they may do other blood tests, urine protein tests or imaging tests.
Healthcare providers treat normocytic anemia by treating the underlying condition. For example, if you have normocytic anemia because you have chronic kidney disease, healthcare providers will focus on treating the kidney disease, which should ease anemia symptoms. If you have severe anemia, they may prescribe medication that’ll help your bone marrow make more red blood cells.
Many conditions cause normocytic anemia. That makes it hard to predict if you’ll have normocytic anemia, much less prevent it. Normocytic anemia happens when you have a medical condition that causes anemia. While you probably can’t prevent normocytic anemia, you may be able to limit its impact. Ask your healthcare provider if your illness increases the chance you’ll develop normocytic anemia. If that’s the case, ask them about anemia symptoms, and let them know if you notice significant changes in your body that may be symptoms of anemia.
Normocytic anemia is a sign of many medical issues, some more serious than others. If you have normocytic anemia, your prognosis or expected outcome depends on factors like what kind of illness caused your anemia, how you’re responding to treatment for that illness and your general health.
Talk to your healthcare provider if you’re concerned about your prognosis. They’re your best resource for information about your situation.
If you have normocytic anemia, you’re probably already living with a chronic illness that comes with its own challenges. Normocytic anemia may be one more illness you have to manage. Here are some suggestions that may help:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
If you have normocytic anemia, you have fewer red blood cells than normal. You may learn this after a routine blood test or a blood test to find out why you have certain symptoms. Many times, normocytic anemia happens because you have a chronic illness that affects your red blood cells. You may have known about the illness, or it may come as an unwelcome surprise. Ask your healthcare provider to explain your test results and any next steps, so you know what to expect.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/10/2022.
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