Iron deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia. Anemia occurs when there are not enough healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen to the body’s tissues. Iron deficiency anemia is caused by our body not having enough iron. We get iron from our food, and also reuse (recycle) the iron from old red blood cells when they are taken from out of our system by the spleen. Iron is part of hemoglobin which is the molecule inside red blood cells which carries oxygen.
Symptoms may include extreme tiredness (fatigue), pale skin, weakness, shortness of breath, chest pain, frequent infections, headache, dizziness, cold hands and feet, soreness of your tongue, brittle nails, fast heartbeat, unusual craving for non-nutritive substances, such as ice or dirt, poor appetite, and uncomfortable tingling in your legs. Causes may include blood loss, a lack of iron in your diet, pregnancy, or an inability to absorb iron. Conditions which may make it difficult to absorb iron include Celiac disease and Crohn’s disease. Gastric bypass surgery or taking too many calcium based antacids may also decrease iron absorption.
Some individuals are at higher risk of developing iron deficiency anemia including women, infants and children, and frequent blood donors. Mild iron deficiency anemia doesn’t usually have complication. Severe iron deficiency anemia may lead to health problem including heart problems, problems during pregnancy, and growth problems. To diagnose iron deficiency anemia, your doctor will run blood work to determine your red blood cell size and color, hematocrit (the percentage of your blood volume made up of red blood cells), hemoglobin, and ferritin (protein that helps store iron in your body). Your doctor may recommend iron supplement to treat iron deficiency anemia. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia, talk to your doctor about the most current treatment options.