What Are the Symptoms of Having a Low Red Blood Cell Count?

A low red blood cell count, most often referred to as anemia, can cause weakness, fatigue, dizziness, fainting, lack of energy, pale skin, rapid heart rate or palpitations and shortness of breath. Chronic anemia in children may cause learning problems and increased risk of infection, says MedicineNet

The symptoms of slowly developing anemia include headaches; grumpiness; feeling of weakness or tiredness; and problems thinking or concentrating. As the condition worsens, the range of symptoms widens to include pale skin, brittle nails, sore tongue, shortness of breath, dizziness upon standing, bluish color in the whites of the eyes and cravings for ice or nonfood items. Different forms of anemia can cause additional or other symptoms, explains MedlinePlus.

The onset of anemia may be the result of taking certain medications, pregnancy or red blood cells being destroyed sooner than normal. Chronic diseases that can cause anemia include cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic kidney disease or ulcerative colitis. Bone marrow disorders that may cause anemia are leukemia, multiple myeloma, lymphoma, aplastic anemia or myelodysplasia. Some types of anemia may be inherited, according to MedlinePlus.

Treatment for low red blood cell count, such as a blood transfusion, is directed at the cause. Erythropoietin is a medication that helps the bone marrow produce more blood cells. If the immune system is destroying the cells too soon, corticosteroids or other drugs may be used to suppress the immune system. Some patients can take folic acid, vitamin B12, iron and other minerals and vitamins to treat the condition, notes MedlinePlus.