iron deficiencyanemia focuses on increasing your iron
stores so they reach normal levels and identifying and controlling any
conditions that caused the
anemia. If your anemia is caused by:
A disease or condition, such as bleeding in your stomach, your doctor will take steps to correct the
Not having enough iron in your diet or
not being able to absorb iron, your doctor will work
with you to develop a plan to increase your iron levels.
Taking iron supplement pills and getting enough iron in your food will correct most cases of iron deficiency anemia. You
usually take iron pills 1 to 3 times a day. To get the most benefit from the
pills, take them with vitamin C (ascorbic acid) pills or orange juice. Vitamin
C helps your body absorb more iron.
The symptoms of anemia vary according to the type of anemia, the underlying cause, the severity and any underlying health problems, such as hemorrhaging, ulcers, menstrual problems, or cancer. Specific symptoms of those problems may be noticed first.
The body also has a remarkable ability to compensate for early anemia. If your anemia is mild or has developed over a long period of time, you may not notice any symptoms.
Symptoms common to many types of anemia include the following:
Most people start to feel
better within a few days of beginning treatment. Even though you feel better,
you will need to keep taking the pills for several months to build up your iron
stores. Sometimes it takes up to 6 months of treatment with iron supplements
before iron levels return to normal.
You may need to get iron through an IV if you have problems with the iron pills or if your body doesn't absorb enough
iron from food or iron pills.
anemia is severe, your doctor may give you a
blood transfusion to correct your anemia quickly and
then have you start on iron supplement pills and a diet high in iron.
To watch your condition, your doctor will use blood tests, such as:
Iron tests, which measure the amount of iron in your
reticulocyte count, to see how well treatment is
working. Reticulocytes are immature red blood cells produced by the bone marrow
and released into the bloodstream. When reticulocyte counts increase, it
usually means that iron replacement treatment is effective.
Usually, people can eliminate iron deficiency anemia by
taking iron as pills and adding iron in their diet. If your anemia is
not corrected with these treatments, your doctor might do more testing to look
for other causes of your anemia, such as new bleeding or difficulty absorbing
iron from pills. These tests may be the same as those initially used to
diagnose your anemia.
What to think about
If you suspect you have iron
deficiency anemia, do not take iron pills without consulting your doctor.
Taking iron pills could delay the diagnosis of a serious problem such as
colorectal cancer or a bleeding ulcer.
If the anemia is not due to
iron deficiency, taking iron pills will not relieve the anemia and could cause
poisoning (iron toxicity). It could also cause an
iron overload condition called
hemochromatosis, especially in people who have a
genetic tendency toward storing too much iron in their bodies.
some people, iron pills cause stomach discomfort, nausea, diarrhea,
constipation, and black stool. Iron is best absorbed if taken on an empty
stomach. But if you are having stomach problems, you may need to take the pills
with food. Do not take iron pills with milk, caffeinated drinks, or antacids.
If the side effects of your iron pills make you feel too sick, talk to your
doctor. He or she may know of another type of iron pill you can take.