Anemia in elderly patients: new insight into an old disorder

Geriatr Gerontol Int. 2013 Jul;13(3):519-27. doi: 10.1111/ggi.12017. Epub 2012 Dec 17.


Anemia is an important healthcare concern among the elderly. In these patients, the anemia is often mild, with a hemoglobin level >10 g/dL. It is usually well tolerated, but might be responsible for several proteiform and/or atypical presenting complaints. In the elderly, anemia is usually of multifactorial origin, including chronic inflammation, chronic kidney disease, nutrient deficiencies and iron deficiency (approximately two-thirds of all cases). The remaining cases are unexplained (unknown etiology). In the elderly, the classic diagnosis of anemia, which is based on the mean corpuscular volume associated with a low hemoglobin level, might not be accurate. A predefined standardized diagnostic procedure should be followed. In the common case of frail elderly patients, all investigations should be carefully considered and invasive examinations undertaken where justified (risk-benefit balance). Nevertheless, most cases of anemia require further investigation and the underlying cause should be identified and treated whenever possible.

Keywords: anemia; chronic inflammation; chronic renal failure; elderly; iron deficiency; vitamin deficiency.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging*
  • Anemia* / blood
  • Anemia* / epidemiology
  • Anemia* / etiology
  • Geriatric Assessment*
  • Global Health
  • Hemoglobins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Disorders / blood
  • Nutrition Disorders / complications*
  • Prevalence


  • Hemoglobins