What is Iron Deficiency Anemia?Iron deficiency anemia is notably the commonest type of anemia. It occurs when your body lacks enough iron. The most common cause of this disease is the parasitic disease, helminthiasis. The treatment includes iron-rich food, iron supplements, and a focus on the underlying causes. Picture Courtesy: scientific animations Anemia refers to a medical condition in which there is a decrease in hemoglobin levels in red blood cells. Hemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells, carries oxygen from your lungs to your tissues. It also returns carbon dioxide from the tissues to your lungs. Anemia occurs when the body lacks sufficient healthy red blood cells. This can be caused by a deficiency or a shortage of red blood cells. This causes a decrease in oxygen flow to organs. The commonest and most frequently occurring type of anemia is iron deficiency anemia. It occurs when the body lacks sufficient iron. The body cannot get enough oxygen if there is not enough iron in its blood. A parasitic disease called helminthiasis is the leading cause of this disease. The treatment includes iron-rich food, iron supplements, as well as a focus on the underlying causes.
Who is at Risk of Iron Deficiency Anemia?Iron deficiency is a common condition that can affect both men and women. Iron deficiency may be more common in certain people than in others.
- Blood donors
- People with poor diets
- Women who are pregnant (women who have had a period)
- Pregnant women
- Children and infants
What are the Possible Complications?For mild cases of iron deficiency anemia, complications are rare. Iron deficiency can lead to severe health problems if left untreated.
- Complications during pregnancy.
- Stunted Growth.
- Heart problems
- Higher risk of infection
What symptoms are most commonly associated with iron deficiency?
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Iron deficiency anemia is a slow onset disorder where initially the patient will be asymptomatic, but as the disease progresses, the signs and symptoms will become evident.
Some signs and symptoms of iron deficiency include:
- Restless leg syndrome
- Pale skin
- Extreme fatigue
- Cold feet and hands
- Chest pain (Angina)
- Breathlessness (fast or irregular heartbeat)
- Headache, dizziness, or lightheadedness
- Cold feet and hands
- Inflammation of the tongue
- Poor appetite
Iron deficiency anemia is the leading cause worldwide. This parasitic disease is called helminthiasis and is caused by parasitic worm infestations (helminths). Anemia iron deficiency can also be caused by inadequate iron intake, blood loss, pregnancy, and inability to absorb iron.
- What happens to anemia if it is not treated?
Left untreated, iron deficiency can result in severe health problems. Insufficient hemoglobin means that the body does not produce enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to vital organs. This can lead to an increase in the size of the heart or even heart failure.
- What are the complications of anemia?
Low levels of hemoglobin in the blood can cause oxygen deficiency in tissues. Hypoxia can be caused by this condition.
- Is lack of iron the only thing that can cause anemia?
Anemia occurs when the blood has insufficient red blood cells. It can occur for many reasons. Iron deficiency is not the singular cause of anemia. Anemia can also occur when there is a lack of the necessary protein to absorb vitamin B12 through the digestive tract. The body can’t absorb enough vitamin B12 through the digestive tract. This causes insufficient red blood cell production. This form of anemia is known as pernicious anemia.
Other serious forms of anemia may be inherited. These include aplastic anemia and sickle-cell anemia.
- What are the different ways to supplement iron?
- Foods rich in iron
- Oral iron supplements
- Iron can also be intramuscularly given
- Is anemia hereditary?
Hereditary conditions can cause anemia. Anemia due to hereditary disorders can be severe or mild, depending on the severity.
- How can you prevent iron deficiency?
One can prevent iron deficiency anemia by taking iron-rich vitamins in the diet.
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- Eat iron-rich foods like
- Red meat, poultry, pork
- Green leafy vegetables
- Dry fruits such as raisins and apricots
- Seafood, beans, peas
- Iron-fortified cereals
- Food containing vitamin C enhances iron absorption
- Vegetables like tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, and broccoli.
- Fruits such as kiwi, grapefruit, oranges, melon, strawberries
- What are the diagnostic steps to diagnose iron-deficiency anemia?
The doctor will first examine the patient to determine if they have iron deficiency. The patient might have to undergo a couple of blood tests to confirm the disorder. A couple of tests are listed below:
- Red blood cell size and color- Patients with iron deficiency anemia will have small red blood cells and paler in color
- Decreased levels of Hematocrit
- Low levels of MCV (Mean Cellular Volume), low serum Ferritin levels
- Low serum iron
- High levels of TIBC (Total Iron Binding Capacity)
- Low iron saturation.
- Other tests such as – endoscopy and colonoscopy to check for gastrointestinal bleeding, ultrasonography.
- Urinalysis and fecal occult blood test.
- How do we treat iron-deficiency anemia?
The doctor has to treat the underlying cause of iron deficiency anemia initially. The patient will be advised to take iron supplements to replenish the iron stores in the body. Here are a couple of instructions that the patient has to follow while taking iron supplements.
- Take iron tablets on an empty stomach
- Don’t take iron tablets with antacids
- Take iron tablets with Vitamin C.
Treating the underlying cause of iron deficiency anemia:
- Medications such as oral contraceptives to lighten the menstrual flow
- Antibiotics and other medications to treat peptic ulcers
- Surgery to remove bleeding polyp, a tumor, or a fibroid.
- In severe cases, the patient might need an iv iron infusion or blood transfusion to help replace iron and hemoglobin quickly.
- What are the side effects associated with iron deficiency anemia?
The side effects associated with iron deficiency anemia are:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle and joint pain
- Shortness of breath
- Itchiness and rashes
- Burning sensation at the site of injection
- Increased or decreased blood pressure or heart rate.
Other serious side effects are:
- Anaphylaxis shock
- Low blood pressure (hypotension)
- Loss of consciousness
- What are the risk factors associated with iron deficiency anemia?
The risk factors associated with iron deficiency anemia are listed below:
- Age-children aged between 6 months to 2 years, teens, and adults over 60 years are at higher risk.
- Lead exposure
- Familial history
- Gender- girls and women who have heavy menstrual flow or pregnant females or breastfeeding mothers are at higher risk of iron deficiency.