Nov 15, 2000 Table of Contents

Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education Web site.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Normocytic Anemia

Am Fam Physician. 2000 Nov 15;62(10):2264.

See related article on normocytic anemia.

What is normocytic anemia?

Normocytic anemia is a blood problem. It means you have normal-sized red blood cells, but you have a low number of them.

The presence of normal-sized red blood cells tells your doctor that you have normocytic anemia rather than another kind of anemia. For example, when anemia is caused by having too little iron in your diet, you have small red blood cells. When anemia is caused by having too little vitamin B12, you have extra large red blood cells.

What causes normocytic anemia?

Normocytic anemia can be congenital (a problem you were born with) or acquired (caused by an infection or disease).

Congenital normocytic anemia is caused by the breaking up of red blood cells. Sickle cell disease is a congenital disorder of red blood cells.

The most common cause of the acquired form of normocytic anemia is a long-term (chronic) disease. Chronic diseases that can cause normocytic anemia include kidney disease, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and thyroiditis. Some medicines can cause you to have normocytic anemia, but this does not happen often.

What are the signs of normocytic anemia?

Normocytic anemia usually starts slowly. It doesn't have many signs at first. You may find yourself getting tired easily. You may look pale. If the anemia starts more suddenly or gets really bad, you might feel dizzy or weak.

How does my doctor find out that I have normocytic anemia?

Most often, normocytic anemia is found on routine tests that are part of a physical exam. It might be found on a blood test you get for some other reason. A complete blood count also called a CBC can show if you have normocytic anemia.

If your CBC shows a low number of normal-sized red blood cells, your doctor might want you to get more tests to see what is causing the anemia. If the cause is inherited, other family members may also need to be tested.

How is normocytic anemia treated?

When possible, fixing the condition that is causing the anemia is the most important part of treating it. This might mean you would stop taking a medicine, or your doctor might treat a chronic illness or look for something that causes you to lose blood.

If your normocytic anemia is very bad, you might get shots of erythropoietin (brand name: Epogen). Erythropoietin (say this: air-rith-ro-po-et-in) helps your bone marrow make more red blood cells. Talk to your doctor before you take extra iron pills or vitamins. Too much iron is not good for you either.


This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at http://familydoctor.org.

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.

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