Iron Deficiency Anemia

The most common cause of anemia is iron deficiency anemia.  Iron is needed to form hemoglobin.  Hemoglobin is contained in red blood cells and delivers oxygen to parts of the body.

What Causes Iron Deficiency Anemia?

Causes include a diet low in iron, body changes, GI tract abnormalities, blood loss.

What Are Symptoms Of Iron Deficiency Anemia?

Common symptoms can include abnormal paleness of the skin, irritability, lack of energy, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, a desire to eat peculiar substances, such as dirt or ice (a condition called pica).  Individual symptoms may vary.

How Is The Diagnosis Made?

Iron deficiency anemia is usually discovered during a medical examination through a blood test.  Physicians may suspect iron deficiency anemia based on the symptoms the patient reports.  The blood test measures the amount of hemoglobin present in red blood cells and the amount of iron in the blood.  In order to rule out other conditions that may be causing the iron deficiency anemia, the physician may orders other tests, such as a bone marrow aspiration and biopsy.  A colonoscopy may be performed to check the colon for areas of blood loss.

How Is Iron Deficiency Anemia Treated?

Treatments may include an iron rich diet and iron supplements.  Foods high in iron include:

  • Meats – beef, pork, lamb, liver and other organ meats
  • Poultry – chicken, turkey, duck, livers and especially dark meal
  • Fish – clams, mussels, oysters, sardines
  • Leafy green vegetables – broccoli, kale, turnip greens, collards
  • Legumes – lima beans, green peas, black eyed peas, dry bean and peas
  • Whole wheat bread and rolls
  • Iron enriched white bread, pasta, rice

Iron supplements can be taken to increase iron levels.  Supplements can cause irritation of the stomach and cause stools to become black in color.  Iron supplements should be taken on an empty stomach or with orange juice to increase absorption.

Sometimes people either cannot tolerate iron supplements or they are simply not absorbing iron.  Iron must then be supplemented through an IV or an injection into the hip.  Your doctor will tell you the best way for you to get this supplementation.  Some people can have an allergic reaction to iron.  A small test dose is always given first to make sure you are not allergic to the iron supplements.

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