Is Anemia a Disability? What You Need to Know.

Anemia is a medical condition characterized by a lack of sufficient red blood cells in the body. This condition often results in symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, and pale skin, among others. Some people may wonder whether anemia qualifies as a disability, and what it means to live with this condition. In this article, we will discuss some of the key aspects of anemia and its potential impact on one’s daily life and ability to work.

What is Anemia?

Anemia is a condition that occurs when the body doesn’t have enough red blood cells to transport oxygen to the body’s tissues. The main function of red blood cells is to carry oxygen from the lungs to different parts of the body. When there is a shortage of red blood cells, the body’s organs and tissues don’t receive enough oxygen, leading to various symptoms of anemia.

Types of Anemia

There are different types of anemia, but the most common ones include:

  • Iron-deficiency anemia: caused by a lack of iron in the diet, blood loss, or the body’s inability to absorb iron properly.
  • Vitamin-deficiency anemia: caused by a lack of B12 or folate in the diet, or the body’s inability to absorb them properly.
  • Hemolytic anemia: caused by the destruction of red blood cells in the body.
  • Aplastic anemia: caused by the failure of bone marrow to produce enough red blood cells.
  • Sickle cell anemia: an inherited form of anemia that affects the shape of red blood cells, making them break down more quickly.

Symptoms of Anemia

The symptoms of anemia vary depending on the type and severity of the condition. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Headaches
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Pale skin
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Chest pain

Can Anemia Be Considered a Disability?

Whether anemia qualifies as a disability depends on various factors, such as the severity of the condition, the type of work one does, and the extent to which anemia affects one’s ability to perform daily activities. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, or working.

If an individual has severe anemia that affects their ability to perform certain functions related to their job, such as lifting, carrying, or standing for long periods, then they may be eligible for accommodations under the ADA. For instance, an employer may need to provide a stool for a worker who needs to sit down frequently, or allow for more frequent breaks to rest or drink water.

Disability Benefits for Anemia

If anemia is severe and has a significant impact on a person’s ability to work, they may be eligible for disability benefits such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). To qualify for SSDI or SSI, an individual must meet the following criteria:

  • The individual must have a medical condition that meets the Social Security Administration’s definition of disability.
  • The individual must have earned enough work credits to qualify for SSDI, or have limited income and resources to qualify for SSI.
  • The individual’s condition must last for at least one year, or be expected to result in death.

Anemia and Discrimination in the Workplace

It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee or job applicant based on their disability or perceived disability. This means that an employer cannot refuse to hire or promote someone, or fire them, simply because they have anemia or require accommodations related to their condition. If someone experiences discrimination, they may file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Living with Anemia

Depending on the severity of the condition, living with anemia can be challenging. It may require lifestyle changes, such as a different diet or exercise routine, as well as regular medical treatment. Some people may need to receive regular blood transfusions to keep their red blood cell count at a healthy level.

Other factors that can help manage anemia include getting enough rest, staying hydrated, and avoiding activities that can cause exhaustion or strain. Additionally, it is important for people with anemia to communicate with their healthcare provider, inform their employer of any accommodations they need, and seek support from family and friends.

Anemia and Pregnancy

For women who have anemia, pregnancy can be a particularly challenging time. Anemia during pregnancy can lead to health complications for both the mother and the baby, such as preterm labor, low birth weight, and postpartum depression. It is crucial for pregnant women to receive regular prenatal care and monitor their iron levels closely, to reduce the risk of complications.

Anemia in Children

Anemia can also affect children, particularly those who are picky eaters, have a restricted diet, or suffer from chronic diseases that affect their iron absorption. Children with anemia may experience delays in growth and development, as well as difficulties with learning and behavior. It is important for parents to ensure that their children receive a balanced diet and take any necessary supplements or medications to manage their condition.


Anemia can be a challenging condition to live with, but with proper medical treatment, lifestyle changes, and support, people with anemia can lead healthy and fulfilling lives. Whether or not anemia qualifies as a disability depends on the severity of the condition and its impact on one’s ability to work and perform daily activities. However, there are resources and accommodations available for those who need them, and it is important for people with anemia to seek support and communicate openly with their healthcare providers and employers.


  • Q: Can anemia be cured?
  • A: The treatment for anemia depends on the underlying cause. In some cases, anemia can be cured with lifestyle changes, such as a healthy diet and regular exercise. In other cases, medication or medical procedures may be necessary.

  • Q: Is anemia hereditary?
  • A: Some types of anemia, such as sickle cell anemia, are inherited from parents. Other types may be caused by environmental factors or underlying health conditions.

  • Q: Can anemia be prevented?
  • A: Anemia can sometimes be prevented by maintaining a healthy diet that includes iron-rich foods. For women who have heavy menstrual periods or are pregnant, taking iron supplements may also be necessary.

  • Q: Can anemia cause death?
  • A: In severe cases, anemia can lead to complications that can lead to death. However, with proper medical treatment and management, the majority of people with anemia can live normal and healthy lives.


  • American Society of Hematology. (n.d.). Anemia.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, April 9). Iron-deficiency Anemia.
  • U.S. Department of Labor. (2017, February). Disability Discrimination.

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