Iron deficiency anemia is type of anemia which is very common in people. Anemia is a condition that occurs as a result of an inadequate amount of healthy red blood cells, which play a role in carrying oxygen to the tissues.
Iron deficiency anemia occurs due to lack of iron in the body. This results in insufficient production of hemoglobin, which is a red pigment in the red blood cells that allow them to carry oxygen. Therefore, iron deficiency anemia can cause fatigue and breathlessness.
Iron deficiency anemia can be corrected with iron supplements. However, additional treatments may be necessary sometimes, especially for people who are bleeding internally.
Signs and symptoms
In the beginning, iron deficiency anemia can be mild enough to be left alone unnoticed. However, as the body lacks in iron more, the condition worsens and symptoms flare up.
Signs and symptoms for iron deficiency anemia include:
- Extreme fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Pale skin
- Cold hands and/or feet
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Soreness or inflammation of the tongue
- Rapid heartbeat
- Brittle nails
- Abnormal cravings, usually for substances such as starch, dirt or ice
- Poor appetite, usually in children and infants
- A crawling or tingling feeling in the legs, also known as restless led syndrome
See your doctor as soon as possible if you suspect you or your child has iron deficiency anemia.
You may be directed to take iron supplements to correct the problem. The doctor will also try to diagnose and treat an underlying cause, if needed.
If your doctor recommends taking iron supplements, make sure you try your best to improve its absorption in your body by following these steps:
- Always take iron supplements on an empty stomach, if possible. However, iron tablets may cause an upset stomach, therefore, it is better if you have them with your meals in such cases
- Take iron supplements with vitamin C. vitamin C can improve iron absorption in the body. You may be directed to drink a glass of orange juice or take vitamin C supplements along with iron tablets
Iron supplements may also cause constipation; therefore, you will most likely be directed to take stool softeners. Iron supplements can also cause black stools, which is not a cause for concern.
Iron deficiency cannot be treated overnight. You may have to take supplements for many months to replenish your iron supply. In most cases, people start to feel better within a week or so during treatment. You will be asked to return to the doctor’s office for a routine blood check.
If iron supplements do not increase the iron levels in the blood, anemia is most likely cause by an iron-absorption problem in the body or a source of bleeding. Whatever the cause, the doctor will prescribe appropriate treatment to rectify it and resolve symptoms.