Iron Deficiency Anemia is a common type of anemia in which the blood in your body lacks an adequate amount o red blood cells.
This occurs when there is less amount of hemoglobin in your red blood cells, RBCs. Hemoglobin is a protein in your RBCs that is responsible for carrying oxygen to your tissues.
It is one of the most common types of Anemia and it occurs when you don’t have enough mineral iron in your body.
Your body requires iron to makes hemoglobin and when there is not enough present in your bloodstream, then the rest of your body cannot get the amount of oxygen it needs.
Many people do not know that they are iron deficient, while this condition is very common. Moreover, it is possible to experience the symptoms without even knowing the cause.
In most cases, women of childbearing age, have anemia in the blood due to heavy menstruation or pregnancy.
A poor or unhealthy diet or certain intestinal diseases that affect how your body absorbs iron can also cause iron-deficiency anemia.
Most often, doctors treat it with iron supplements or making certain changes in the diet.
This article is your complete guide on Iron Deficiency Anemia.
Signs and Symptoms of Iron Deficiency
The signs and symptoms may be mild at first and you may not even notice them.
According to the American Society of Hematology ASH, most people are unaware that they have mild anemia until they have a routine blood test.
The signs and symptoms of moderate or severe iron deficiency are general fatigue, weakness, pale skin, shortness of breath, dizziness, and strange cravings to eat different food items that are not food like ice, sand or dirt, etc.
Moreover, you might observe tingling or crawling sensations in your legs, swelling on your tongue it soreness, cold hands, and feet, brittle nails, and headaches.
Causes of Iron Deficiency
Iron deficiency occurs in your body when your food has not enough iron content in it. Moreover, sometimes your body might not be able to absorb iron, you lose iron through blood or when you are pregnant.
It can also occur when your body is not able to produce enough hemoglobin in the body. It is a part of RBCs, red blood cells that gives blood-red color and enables it to carry oxygen to all parts of the body.
Causes of Iron Deficiency include:
Blood Loss: Your blood contains iron in the red blood cells, RBCs, and if you lose blood, you lose iron,
Women who have a heavy menstruation cycle, are at risk of having iron deficiency.
Moreover, slow and chronic blood loss within the body like a peptic ulcer, hernia, or colorectal cancer can cause anemia.
Iron deficient Diet: Your body gets iron from the food you eat.
If you do not consume enough amount of iron your body can become iron deficient over time.
Examples of iron-rich food include meat, eggs, leafy green vegetables, and iron-fortified foods.
For the growth and development of infants and children, they also need iron.
Inability to Absorb Iron: Your body absorbs iron in the bloodstream in the small intestine.
In case you suffer from an intestinal disorder like celiac disease, it can affect your body’s ability to absorb iron and can lead to iron deficiency.
Moreover, if you had surgery for the removal of a part of the small intestine, it can also affect the ability of your body to absorb iron.
Pregnancy: Iron deficiency can also occur in pregnant women because their iron stores need to serve their own decrease in blood volume as well as that for the growing fetus in their body.
How is it Diagnosed?
Your doctor can help to diagnose iron deficiency in your body through physical examination and blood tests.
Physical examination includes viewing the signs and symptoms in your body and reviewing your medical history.
Moreover, they will also take into account your diet habits in order to determine the causes of iron deficiency in your body.
The complete blood test, CBC looks for different factors in your blood that might be causing it in your bloodstream.
Complete Blood Test, CBC
A complete blood test CBC is one of the initial tests your doctor will order. this test helps to measures all the components in your blood including;
A normal hematocrit range is 34.9 to 44.5 percent for adult women and 38.8 to 50 percent for adult men.
The normal hemoglobin range is 12.0 to 15.5 grams per deciliter for an adult woman and 13.5 to 17.5 grams per deciliter for an adult man.
A CBC test is a good indicator of your overall health. Doctors often recommend it before surgery and it is also useful for people who are unaware of this condition.
You can learn more about our lab test.
Your doctor might also order other tests with a CBC test. These are helpful in determining the severity of the iron deficiency and helps to determine the treatment plan.
Moreover, they may also observe your blood under a microscope and these tests will give the following information:
- Iron level in your blood
- The size of RBC and its color
- Ferritin levels
- Total iron-binding capacity, TIBC
Ferritin is a protein in your body that helps to store iron. Low levels of this mean low iron storage.
A TIBC test indicates the amount of transferrin that is carrying iron. It is a protein that transports iron in your body.
Tests for Internal Bleeding
Additional tests may be required if your doctor suspects internal bleeding in your body.
One of these tests is the Fecal Occult test that looks for blood in your feces. Blood in your feces indicates bleeding in your intestine.
They may also perform an endoscopy, in which they will look at the linings of your intestines. Moreover, an EGD test allows the doctor to examine the lining of your stomach, esophagus, and upper part of small intestines,
A Colonoscopy to lower endoscopy allows your doctor to examine the lining of your colon which is the part of the large intestine,
These test helps to identify sources of Gastrointestinal Bleeding.
The treatment option for Iron deficiency includes iron supplements, improving diet and treating the underlying medical conditions and causes of this condition.
Iron Supplements: These supplements can help to restore the iron levels in your body.
As doctors recommend, you should take iron supplements on an empty stomach which helps your body to absorb them better.
However, if they upset your stomach, you can take them during your meal.
Diet: Diet that contains red med, dark, green leafy vegetables, dried fruits, nuts, iron-fortified cereals, can help maintain the iron levels in your body.
Moreover, vitamin C helps your body to absorb iron. It is important to consult your doctor if you want to take Vitamin C along with the tablets.
Underlying Medical Conditions: Iron Supplements will not help if there is excess bleeding.
Your doctor may prescribe birth control pills if you have heavy periods. This can help reduce the amount of menstrual bleeding each month.
However, in most severe cases, you might need a blood transfusion to replace iron and blood loss quickly.
The following people have increased risk factors of iron deficiency. These are:
Women: Because women lose blood during menstruation, in general, they are at great risk of iron deficiency. You can consult our clinic for gynecological services.
Infants and Children: Those infants who were low birth weight or born prematurely, those who do not get enough iron from breastfeeding or formula milk are at risk of iron deficiency.
Moreover, children need extra iron during growth spurts. If your child is not eating a healthy diet he or she may be at a higher risk.
Vegetarians: People who do not eat meat are at a greater risk of developing iron deficiency over time.
Blood Donors: People who donate blood frequently are at risk as it depletes iron stores in the body.
Mild iron deficiencies do not cause complications in your boy, however, if you do not get treatment, it can become severe and cause different health problems. These are:
Heart Problems: It can lead to a rapid or irregular heartbeat.
Your heart must pump blood to compensate for the lack of oxygen in your blood if you are anemic. This can lead to heart enlargement or heart failure.
Pregnancy Complications: Severe iron deficiency can lead to premature birth and low birth weight babies.
However, it is preventable if a woman receives iron supplements as part of their prenatal care.
Growth Problems: Infants and children can have delayed growth and development due to iron deficiency. Moreover, it can lead to increased chances of infections in them.
Iron Deficiency in Women
Pregnancy, heavy menstrual bleeding, and uterine fibroids can cause iron deficiency in women.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, typical bleeding lasts for 4-5 days and the amount of blood ranges from 2 – 3 tbs.
However, if a woman bleeds more than this, she is susceptible to iron deficiency.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. 20% of women of childbearing age have iron deficiency.
Moreover, pregnant women are more likely to have it because they need an excess amount of blood to support the growing babies.
A pelvic ultrasound can help a doctor look for the source of excess bleeding during a woman’s period, such as fibroids.
Like iron deficiency anemia, uterine fibroids often don’t cause symptoms. They occur when muscular tumors grow in the uterus. While they are not usually cancerous, they can cause heavy menstrual bleeding that can lead to iron deficiency anemia.
You can prevent iron deficiency in your body by eating a healthy iron-rich diet and vitamin C. Foods high in iron are:
- meat like lamb, beef, or chicken
- pumpkin and squash seeds
- leafy green vegetables
- raisins and other dried fruits
Food rich in Vitamin C is citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, broccoli, red and green bell papers, Brussel sprouts, tomatoes, and leafy greens.
In case you observe mild to moderate signs and symptoms of iron deficiency in your body it is better to seek medical advice or consult your doctor to avoid any medical complications.
It is especially important if you are a woman, as they are more likely to be affected by it.
Diagnosing and treating iron deficiency at home can have some adverse effects on your health and can cause complications like liver damage and constipation. Therefore, it is necessary to consult your doctor or seek medical advice instead of treating it yourself.