What is iron deficiency anemia?
Iron deficiency anemia occurs when your
body doesn't have enough iron.
Iron is important because it helps
you get enough oxygen throughout your body. Your body uses iron to make
hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a part of your red blood
cells. Hemoglobin carries oxygen through your body. If you do not have enough
iron, your body makes fewer and smaller
red blood cells . Then your body has less hemoglobin, and you cannot get enough
deficiency is the most
common cause of
What causes iron deficiency anemia?
Iron deficiency anemia is caused by low levels of
iron in the body. You might have low iron levels because you:
- Have heavy menstrual bleeding.
not getting enough iron in food. This can happen in people who need a lot of
iron, such as small children, teens, and pregnant women.
- Have bleeding inside your body. This bleeding may be caused by
problems such as
hemorrhoids, or cancer. This bleeding can also happen
with regular aspirin use. Bleeding inside the body is the most common cause of
iron deficiency anemia in men and in women after menopause.
absorb iron well in your body. This problem may occur if you have
celiac disease or if you have had part of your stomach
or small intestine removed.
What are the symptoms?
You may not notice the symptoms of anemia, because it develops slowly and
the symptoms may be mild. In fact, you may not notice them until your anemia
gets worse. As anemia gets worse, you may:
- Feel weak and tire out more easily.
- Feel dizzy.
- Be grumpy or cranky.
- Look very pale.
- Feel short of
- Have trouble concentrating.
Babies and small children who have anemia may:
- Be fussy.
- Have a short attention
- Grow more slowly than normal.
- Develop skills,
such as walking and talking, later than normal.
Anemia in children must be treated so that mental and
behavior problems do not last long.
How is iron deficiency anemia diagnosed?
If you think you have anemia,
see your doctor. Your doctor will do a physical exam and ask you questions
about your medical history and your symptoms. Your doctor will take some of
your blood to run tests. These tests may include a
complete blood count to look at your red blood cells
and an iron test that shows how much iron is in your blood.
doctor may also do tests to find out what is causing your anemia.
How is it treated?
Your doctor will
probably have you take iron supplement pills to treat your anemia. Most people
begin to feel better after a few days of taking iron pills. But do not stop
taking the pills even if you feel better. You will need to keep taking the
pills for several months to build up the iron in your body.