How to tell if you have anemia

I was diagnosed with anemia years ago. The doctor who diagnosed me* said I could easily treat it myself. I just needed to know how to recognize the symptoms, and then take some iron supplements until the symptoms improved. For many people, anemia comes and goes periodically throughout their lives, and isn’t at all difficult to treat.

How to tell when you're anemic

But some doctors just tell people vaguely that they should take iron whenever they’re feeling stressed or down. I don’t think that’s the best advice, given that those symptoms could belong to depression or any number of other ailments. It seems to me that if you’ve been diagnosed and advised on how to self-medicate, you need to be sure whether your symptoms are actually from anemia or not. I’ll share exactly what my doctor told me to look for. First, a few things about anemia.

Stressed?  Exhausted?  Could be anemia

Feeling lethargic and unable to cope, needing more sleep and not feeling rested when you get it – those are my typical anemia symptoms. Oh, and I also sometimes get headaches, cold feet and hands, and dizziness. But I’ve observed over the years that periods of great stress tend to lead to anemia – apparently stress can cause your body to consume more minerals than usual. What often happens to me is that I think I’m stressed and maybe even slightly depressed because of it, and I don’t even realize that I’ve become anemic until the stress lessens a bit, but I still feel miserable. That’s why it’s essential to have these simple tests to determine if you’re anemic or not.

Self-testing for anemia

Here are the tests my doctor told me to use to determine if I’m actually anemic at any given time. Remember: get diagnosed by a professional! This information is intended for people who have been diagnosed and advised to monitor their own condition.

  • Check your eyelids. Look in the mirror, and get up close to it so you can see your face very well. Quickly pull your lower eyelid down and look at the skin inside that eyelid. It will start off a very pale whitish color and then become more pink (close to the color of raw chicken). The switch to pink should happen very quickly. If it takes a few seconds – or seems not to be happening at all – chances are, you’re anemic. Yes, this tip works for people of all races, as the inner eyelid goes through the same process in everyone.
  • Check your lips. Anemia tends to make you pale, and this is often most obvious at the lips. If your lips seem paler than usual, that’s an indicator of anemia. This tip also works for people of all skin tones.
  • Check your nails. Your nail beds (the little half-moon near the cuticle) can also turn pale blueish when you’re anemic. This tip is considered a bit less reliable for dark skinned people, but if you know what color your nail beds are normally and notice them becoming more pale or leaning more toward blue, that’s a sign of anemia.

These indicators may mean that you’re mildly anemic and need to follow your doctor’s instructions for what to do in that case (probably eat more iron-rich foods and take iron supplements as directed).


  1. trish garron says

    this was great information… thanks so much… looking forward to learning more and passing the site on to my friends…

  2. Lawrence says

    i have the feeling that im anemic. reasons are i have cold feet and hand always, feeling tired and weak, dizziness, and last is my mother has a history.

  3. Blippety says

    Thanks for this information. I finally Googled why I have no energy all the time and the symptoms you described sounds exactly like me – no energy, not feeling rested after getting sleep (I can wake up after 12+ hours of sleep and still be tired), cold feet, dizziness; I also get out of breath really easily and get heart palpitations occasionally. Definitely getting a blood test ASAP. I’m 15 and I’ve had this all my life so I really hope I can get to the bottom of this.

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