Iron Deficiency Anemia

What is Iron Deficiency Anemia?

Generally, anemia is when your blood does not have enough healthy red blood cells and therefore cannot carry adequate oxygen to the body.

Iron deficiency anemia is a common type of anemia caused when there is not enough iron in your body which inhibits it from creating hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein in the red blood cells that carries oxygen.

Without iron to produce hemoglobin, oxygen is not adequately distributed to your body.

What are Causes of Iron Deficiency Anemia?

Iron deficiency anemia is caused by the lack of iron in your blood which allows it to produce hemoglobin. This lack of iron can be caused by a few different factors:

  • A lack of iron in your diet
  • Blood loss (Heavy menstruation, chronic blood loss, etc.)
  • An inability to absorb iron (your small intestine becomes compromised from a disease like Celiac Disease.)
  • Pregnancy
  • Intravascular hemolysis

Risk factors for Iron Deficiency Anemia include:

  • Being a woman
  • Infants and children
  • Blood donors
  • Vegetarians

What are the Symptoms of Iron Deficiency Anemia?

Due to the lack of oxygen that your body receives several complications can arise from iron deficiency anemia.

The most common symptoms of iron deficiency anemia include:

  • Sore or smooth tongue
  • Craving for ice or clay (picophagia)
  • Unexplained fatigue or lack of energy
  • Weakness
  • Pale skin
  • Brittle nails
  • Hair loss
  • Chest pain or shortness of breath
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headache
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

Iron Deficiency Anemia is not something you should self-diagnose, and taking iron supplements on your own could be dangerous. See your doctor if you are experiencing any combination of the above symptoms persistently.

What are Treatments for Iron Deficiency Anemia?

The treatments for iron deficiency anemia are very straightforward- get more iron in your body. However, some other conditions or medications can interfere with the absorption of iron.

The most common treatments for iron deficiency anemia include:

  • Take iron tablets on an empty stomach
  • Increase food intake of foods rich in iron
  • Treatment for diseases that impede absorption like Celiac disease or Crohn’s disease
  • Take iron tablets without antacids
  • Take iron tablets in conjunction with vitamin C
  • Antibiotics to treat peptic ulcers
  • Oral contraceptives to reduce menstrual bleeding
  • Surgery or treatment for internal bleeding

Foods rich in iron:

  • Seafood
  • Red meat- Beef
  • Pork
  • Poultry
  • Legumes
  • Leafy greens
  • Beans
  • Dried fruit

Foods rich in vitamin C (to help with iron absorption):

  • Broccoli
  • Grapefruit
  • Kiwi
  • Leafy greens
  • Melons
  • Tomatoes
  • Oranges

What can Happen if Iron Deficiency Anemia is Left Untreated?

Iron deficiency anemia can cause serious health issues if left untreated. When the cells and tissue in your major organs do not receive the supply of oxygen they need they begin to scar or become damaged. Also, with iron deficiency anemia, your heart can be overworked because it is trying to supply more blood to oxygen deprived sections of the body.

How Long Does it Take to Replenish Iron After an Iron Deficiency?

Iron deficiency can take two to three weeks to reverse symptoms. Depending on why you were anemic in the first place you may need to take iron supplements for a long period of time to ensure that the anemia does not return.