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Anemia in children

J J Irwin, J T Kirchner
American Family Physician 2001 October 15, 64 (8): 1379-86
11681780
Anemia in children is commonly encountered by the family physician. Multiple causes exist, but with a thorough history, a physical examination and limited laboratory evaluation a specific diagnosis can usually be established. The use of the mean corpuscular volume to classify the anemia as microcytic, normocytic or macrocytic is a standard diagnostic approach. The most common form of microcytic anemia is iron deficiency caused by reduced dietary intake. It is easily treatable with supplemental iron and early intervention may prevent later loss of cognitive function. Less common causes of microcytosis are thalassemia and lead poisoning. Normocytic anemia has many causes, making the diagnosis more difficult. The reticulocyte count will help narrow the differential diagnosis; however, additional testing may be necessary to rule out hemolysis, hemoglobinopathies, membrane defects and enzymopathies. Macrocytic anemia may be caused by a deficiency of folic acid and/or vitamin B12, hypothyroidism and liver disease. This form of anemia is uncommon in children.

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