Unexplained anemia in the elderly

Semin Hematol. 2008 Oct;45(4):250-4. doi: 10.1053/j.seminhematol.2008.06.003.


Among the elderly, anemia occurs with increasing frequency with each advancing decade. Unlike when anemia occurs in younger adults, the cause of anemia in the elderly is oftentimes not readily apparent or attributable to a single cause. However, this commonly observed form of anemia in the elderly (termed unexplained anemia [UA]) can generally be dissected to its root causes, which include renal insufficiency, inflammation, testosterone deficiency, and stem cell proliferative decline. Myelodysplasia (MDS) occurs commonly in this age group but can and should, for both diagnostic and therapeutic considerations, be distinguished from UA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging*
  • Androgens / deficiency
  • Anemia / drug therapy
  • Anemia / etiology*
  • Cellular Senescence
  • Cytokines / blood
  • Erythropoietin / metabolism
  • Erythropoietin / therapeutic use
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / complications*
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Renal Insufficiency / complications


  • Androgens
  • Cytokines
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Erythropoietin