Anemia occurs when you have a level of red blood cells (RBCs) in your blood that is lower than normal. Iron deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia, and it happens when your body does not have enough of the mineral iron. Your body requires iron to make a protein called hemoglobin.
What is iron deficiency anemia?
This protein is accountable for carrying oxygen to your body’s tissues, which is important for your tissues and muscles to work successfully. When there isn’t adequate iron in your blood stream, the rest of your body can’t get the quantity of oxygen it requires.
While the condition may prevail, a great deal of individuals don’t know they have iron shortage anemia. It’s possible to experience the symptoms for many years without ever knowing the cause.
In women of childbearing age, the most common cause of iron shortage anemia is a loss of iron in the blood due to heavy menstruation or pregnancy. A bad diet or particular intestinal diseases that affect how the body takes in iron can likewise cause iron deficiency anemia. Medical professionals usually treat the condition with iron supplements or changes to diet.
What causes iron deficiency anemia?
According to the American Society of Hematology, iron shortage is the most typical cause of anemia. There are numerous reasons an individual may become lacking in iron. These include:
Insufficient iron intake
Eating insufficient iron over an extended amount of time can cause a shortage in your body. Foods such as meat, eggs, and some green leafy veggies are high in iron. Since iron is vital during times of fast growth and development, pregnant women and young children might require a lot more iron-rich foods in their diet
Pregnancy or blood loss due to menstruation
In women of childbearing age, the most typical causes of iron shortage anemia are heavy menstrual bleeding and blood loss during giving birth.
Certain medical conditions can cause internal bleeding, which can result in iron deficiency anemia. Examples include an ulcer in your stomach, polyps (tissue growths) in the colon or intestinal tracts, or colon cancer. Regular use of painkiller, such as aspirin, can likewise cause bleeding in the stomach.
Failure to absorb iron
Certain disorders or surgeries that impact the intestinal tracts can also disrupt how your body takes in iron. Even if you get enough iron in your diet, celiac disease or digestive tract surgery, such as stomach bypass, may restrict the amount of iron your body can soak up.
Who is at risk for iron deficiency anemia?
Anemia is a typical condition and can occur in both males and females of any age and from any ethnic group. Some individuals might be at higher risk for iron shortage anemia than others. These include:
- women of childbearing age
- pregnant women
- people with bad diets
- individuals who donate blood frequently
- babies and children, specifically those born too soon or experiencing a growth spurt
- vegetarians who do not replace meat with another iron-rich food.
If you’re at risk for iron deficiency anemia, talk to your doctor to determine if blood testing or dietary changes could benefit you.
What are the symptoms of iron deficiency anemia?
The symptoms of iron shortage anemia can be extremely mild initially, and you might not even observe them. According to the American Society of Hematology (ASH), the majority of people don’t recognize they have mild anemia up until they have a routine blood test.
The symptoms of moderate to severe iron deficiency anemia include:
- general fatigue
- pale skin
- shortness of breath
- strange cravings to eat products that aren’t food, such as dirt, ice, or clay
- a tingling or crawling sensation in the legs
- tongue swelling or soreness
- cold hands and feet
- quickly or irregular heartbeat
- breakable nails
How is iron deficiency anemia detected?
A doctor can detect anemia with blood tests. These include:
Complete blood cell (CBC) test
A complete blood cell (CBC) test is generally the first test a doctor will use. A CBC test determines the amount of all components in the blood, consisting of:
- red blood cells (RBCs)
- white blood cells (WBCs)
The CBC test supplies details about your blood that is handy in identifying iron deficiency anemia. This info consists of:
- the hematocrit level, which is the percent of blood volume that is comprised of RBCs
- the hemoglobin level
- the size of your RBCs.
A normal hematocrit range is 34.9 to 44.5 percent for adult women and 38.8 to 50 percent for adult men. The typical variety for hemoglobin is 12.0 to 15.5 grams per deciliter for an adult woman and 13.5 to 17.5 grams per deciliter for an adult man. In iron shortage anemia, the hematocrit and hemoglobin levels are low. Also, RBCs are generally smaller in size than typical.
A CBC test is typically performed as part of a routine health examination. It’s an excellent sign of a person’s general health. It might also be carried out consistently before a surgery. This test is useful to detect this type of anemia since most people who have an iron deficiency do not understand it.
Anemia can usually be verified with a CBC test. Your doctor might order added blood tests to identify how severe your anemia is and help figure out treatments. They may also examine your blood through a microscopic lense. These blood tests will offer information including:
- iron level in your blood
- RBC size and color. RBCs are pale in color if they’re deficient in iron.
- ferritin levels. Ferritin is a protein that aids with iron storage in your body. Low levels of ferritin indicate low iron storage.
- total iron-binding capability (TIBC). Transferrin is a protein that transfers iron. A TIBC test is used to determine the quantity transferrin that’s bring iron.
Tests for internal bleeding
If your doctor is concerned that internal bleeding is causing your anemia, additional tests might be needed. One test you may have is fecal occult test to look for blood in your feces. Blood in your feces might indicate bleeding in your intestinal tract.
Your doctor may likewise carry out endoscopy, where a small video camera on a versatile tube is used to view the linings of your intestinal tract. An EGD test (upper endoscopy) allows a doctor to examine the lining of the esophagus, stomach, and the upper part of the small intestine.
A colonoscopy (lower endoscopy) enables a doctor to examine the lining of the colon, the lower portion of the big intestinal tract. These tests can help identify sources of gastrointestinal bleeding.
Iron deficiency anemia in women
Pregnancy, considerable menstrual bleeding, and uterine fibroids are all reasons women are most likely to experience iron shortage anemia.
Heavy menstrual bleeding takes place when a woman bleeds longer or more than women typically bleed during menstruation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), common menstrual bleeding lasts for 4 to five days and the quantity of blood lost varieties from 2 to 3 tablespoons. Women with excess menstrual bleeding generally pity more than seven days and lose two times as much blood as regular.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), an approximated 20 percent of women of childbearing age have iron deficiency anemia. Pregnant women are much more likely to experience iron deficiency anemia since they require higher quantities of blood to support their growing children.
A pelvic ultrasound can be used to search for the source of excess bleeding during a woman’s period, such as fibroids. Like iron deficiency anemia, uterine fibroids often do not cause symptoms. However, they happen when muscular tumors grow in the uterus. While they’re not typically cancerous, they can commonly cause heavy menstrual bleeding that can result in iron shortage anemia.
What are the possible health complications of iron deficiency
A lot of cases of iron shortage anemia are mild and don’t cause complications. The condition can typically be quickly corrected. However, if anemia or iron shortage is without treatment, it can result in other health issue, consisting of:
Rapid or irregular heartbeat
When you’re anemic, your heart needs to pump more blood to make up for the low quantity of oxygen. This can cause irregular heartbeat. In severe cases, it can result in heart failure or an enlarged heart.
In severe cases of iron shortage, a child might be born too soon or with a low birth weight. Many pregnant women take iron supplements as part of their prenatal care to prevent this from taking place.
Delayed growth in babies and children
Babies and children who are severely lacking in iron may experience a hold-up in their growth and development. They may likewise be more likely to experience infections.