What is it?

Iron deficiency anemia is among the most common causes of anemia.
Anemia occurs when there is a decreased amount of red blood cells or hemoglobin in your red blood cells. Red blood cells contain hemoglobin, a protein responsible for carrying oxygen to the body’s tissues. Your body uses Iron in order to make hemoglobin. Thus, Iron deficiency causes a decrease in hemoglobin levels and a decrease in the amount of oxygen that reaches the tissues.

Causes
Iron deficiency can be caused by blood loss, inadequate dietary intake or inadequate absorption of iron from food.
Blood loss can be caused by a variety of conditions such as stomach/ duodenal ulcer, some types of cancers, or even heavy menstrual bleeding.
Inadequate absorption
Some conditions can limit the amount of iron your body is able to absorb even if there is adequate intake. These include intestinal diseases such as Celiac or Crohn's disease. Bariatric surgeries may also influence the body’s ability to absorb iron.
Inadequate dietary intake
As the term implies, when not enough iron is consumed over a long time, iron deficiency may develop. Foods that are rich in Iron include meat, eggs, and green leafy vegetables.

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Additional names

This group contains additional names:
- Hypochromia
- Chronic Blood Loss Anemia

Signs & symptoms

Symptoms range from mild to severe with relation the severity of the anemia and how fast the anemia developed. Mild iron deficiency is often asymptomatic.
Symptoms include
-Fatigue
-Weakness
-Shortness of breath
-Dizziness
-Pale skin
-Cold hand and or feet
-Fast heart rate or palpitations
-Headaches
-Brittle nails
-tongue swelling inflammation or soreness (glossitis)
-Cravings for non-nutritive substances, such as paper, ice, dirt or starch (Pica)

Diagnosis

Physical exam: Physical exam is often completely normal. Fast heart rate, pale skin, brittle nails or tongue inflammation may be present.
Blood tests:
CBC (complete blood count) This test gives information about the different cells that circulate in your blood. It includes information about white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.
It is usually the first test the doctor will use when anemia is suspected. Often, Anemia is diagnosed incidentally since this is a common blood test that is used routinely.

Other tests that may be ordered in order to determine the cause or severity of your anemia include
-Blood iron level
-RBC size (MCV) and colour (MCHC)- usually part of the CBC. These properties help to determine the cause of the anemia and weather there are other etiologies contributing to the anemia other than iron deficiency
-Ferritin-reflects the iron storages in your body
-Total iron binding capacity(TIBC)- Reflects the amount of transferrin, a protein used to transport iron into the cells.

Tests to exclude gastro-interstonal bleeding are used if the doctor is concerned that this may be the cause for your anemia. These tests include fecal occult blood, gastroscopy, colonoscopy and/ or other tests.

Treatment

Iron supplements
Iron supplementation is the most common treatment for iron deficiency anemia and usually the only one needed.
Iron tablets help restore the body’s iron storages and are usually prescribed for at least several months. It is recommended to take them on an empty stomach.
If they don’t relieve the symptoms and raise hemoglobin levels, Iron transfusion may be indicated.

Other than restoring iron levels, treatment should be adjusted per cause. If blood loss is the cause, the doctor’s will try to locate the bleeding and treat it accordingly.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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