Skip to Main Content




"The Sick Lady," a 17th century painting attributed to Caspar Netscher, from the Royal Collection, Buckingham Palace. The Royal Collection © 2010 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Graphic Jump Location

In common parlance, the word anemic connotes weakness, apathy, lifelessness. In medicine, anemia refers specifically to a reduction in red cell mass. These two concepts merge with the realization that oxygen is essential for all forms of life and that red cells are responsible for the transport of oxygen. This painting shows a pale young woman clutching her chest, apparently complaining of palpitations. Her physician is feeling her pulse, documenting her rapid forceful heartbeat. These signs and symptoms, common in patients with very low hemoglobin levels, can be readily explained by the cardiovascular adjustments discussed in Chapter 3.


Physicians in the 17th century would readily conclude that this patient suffers from chlorosis, derived from the Greek word chloris (χλωριζ), meaning greenish yellow. This condition was also known as morbus virgineus (virgin's disease) or mal d'amour (love sickness) in recognition of its high prevalence in young women. We now realize that iron deficiency is by far the most prevalent cause of anemia worldwide.


During the last century, studies of hemoglobin, red cells, and disorders thereof have laid the cornerstones of contemporary molecular and cell biology and have greatly deepened our understanding of hematopoiesis, genetics, and oxygen homeostasis.

Want remote access to your institution's subscription?

Sign in to your MyAccess profile while you are actively authenticated on this site via your institution (you will be able to verify this by looking at the top right corner of the screen - if you see your institution's name, you are authenticated). Once logged in to your MyAccess profile, you will be able to access your institution's subscription for 90 days from any location. You must be logged in while authenticated at least once every 90 days to maintain this remote access.


About MyAccess

If your institution subscribes to this resource, and you don't have a MyAccess profile, please contact your library's reference desk for information on how to gain access to this resource from off-campus.

Pop-up div Successfully Displayed

This div only appears when the trigger link is hovered over. Otherwise it is hidden from view.