Iron deficiency anemia
E-mail this E-mail this     Print Print this    
Iron deficiency anemia is a common condition which is caused by the blood does not carry a high enough level of healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body, which gives a body the energy to live and be active. Patients with iron deficiency anemia tend to be very tired and look pale. Most of the time, iron deficiency anemia can be easily corrected, although if there is an underlying cause, additional treatment is required.


Anemia can contribute to a general feeling of illness and fatigue. Symptoms of anemia may include fatigue, pale skin, cold extremities, lightheadedness, headaches, shortness of breath, weakness, inflammation of the tongue, soreness of the tongue, brittle nails, cravings for non-nutritional substances such as ice, dirt, or pure starches, poor appetite especially in children or babies. Iron deficiency anemia can often contribute to restless leg syndrome. Iron deficiency anemia can be present without symptoms or with unrecognizable symptoms, as in symptoms that are mildly annoying but do not trigger a need to visit a physician. As the iron deficiency increases, so do the symptoms.


Iron deficiency anemia may be caused by blood loss, a low iron diet, pregnancy, or the inability to absorb iron. Women with very heavy menstrual cycles or menstrual cycles which have increased in flow often experience iron deficiency anemia. Internal bleeding from tumors, colon polyps, or uterine fibroids or peptic ulcer can also lead to iron deficiency anemia. Some diseases, such as celiac disease or Chron’s disease, interfere with the body’s ability to absorb iron into the bloodstream. Pregnant women are prone to iron deficiency anemia as their iron reserves are used up faster to help a developing fetus, especially in the first trimester.
Iron deficiency anemia
Image: Iron Deficiency Anemia


Risk factors for iron deficiency anemia include being a woman, heavy menstrual bleeding, pregnancy, being a vegetarian, poor diet or a diet devoid of iron, or an unknown source of internal bleeding, often brought on by the use of NSAID pain relievers or other medications. Infants and children are prone to iron deficiency anemia, especially those who are breast fed by an iron deficient woman or who are bottle fed with formula that is not high enough in iron. Small children with little appetites are also prone to developing iron deficiency anemia.


During physical examinations, patients who complain of fatigue or exhaustion are good candidates for addition iron testing. Blood tests can detect a lack of iron in the blood. Blood tests which detect levels of ferritin can determine whether a lack of iron is in the blood, as ferritin is responsible for storing healthy levels of iron. Without an obvious cause for iron deficiency anemia, or a lack of improvement after regular treatment, other tests maybe performed to determine whether the iron deficiency anemia is caused by an underlying health condition. These tests may include an endoscopy to check for internal bleeding or a colonoscopy to detect internal bleeding, depending on the location in the body that the internal bleeding may be suspected.


While mild iron deficiency anemia does not lead to complications, untreated and worsening anemia can. Complications may include heart problems, growth problems in children and infants born to iron deficient mothers, and problems throughout pregnancy for women who lack the appropriate levels of iron in the blood.


Although increasing iron in the diet is helpful, if iron deficiency anemia has developed there is typically a need for more aggressive treatments. Treatment options may include supplementation with iron tablet, often taken with orange juice or vitamin C tablets to increase the body’s ability to absorb the iron. Medications may be required to help treat the cause of iron deficiency anemia. Oral birth control pills can lighten a heavy menstrual period, medications can treat peptic ulcers, and surgery may be required to remove a bleeding polyp or to remove a tumor or other cause for the iron deficiency anemia.

Citrus foods eaten with iron rich foods can help the body absorb more iron. Women who are pregnant or are likely to become pregnant, or who feel fatigued with a heavy menstrual flow should contact a physician to ask about supplementation. Patients should not supplement iron on their own, as too much iron can also cause health effects.
  Member Comments