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Anemia Features found here

Learn more about the causes and symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia and how it is diagnosed and treated.

Learn more about the causes and symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia and how it is diagnosed and treated.

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What is anemia?

Anemia is a health condition where the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to the body’s tissues.1

There are different types of anemia that may be mild or severe, may be temporary or long term, and are caused by different reasons.1

What is Iron-Deficiency Anemia (IDA)?

IDA is a common type of anemia that is caused by a lack of iron in the blood. Without enough iron, your body can’t produce enough hemoglobin – a substance in red blood cells that allows them to carry oxygen.2

DID YOU KNOW? Iron is represented by the symbol [Fe] in medicine and science.

Did you know?

Iron is represented by the symbol [Fe] in medicine and science.

What causes Iron-Deficiency Anemia (IDA)?

There are various reasons why anemic patients have low iron levels. The most common causes can include excessive blood loss, lack of iron in the diet, the inability to absorb iron in the body, and pregnancy.2

graphic of blood drop with arrow indicating low blood levels

Blood loss2

  • Blood carries iron within red blood cells
  • People who lose blood will therefore lose iron in their body
  • People who have the following may be at higher risk of IDA:
    • Women with heavy periods
    • Chronic internal bleeding that may be caused by stomach ulcers, hiatial hernia (when the stomach breaks through the lining of the chest cavity), colon polyps (clump of cells that form in the lining of the colon), or colorectal cancers
    • Digestive bleeding can also occur as a result of long-term use of over-the-counter pain medicine such as aspirin
  • Frequent blood donors may also have a high risk of IDA as the body loses a lot of iron after every donation
graphic of a plate with knife and fork and letters “Fe” on plate

Low-iron diet2

  • The main source of iron for your body comes from the foods you eat
  • People whose diet does not contain the daily recommended intake of iron and may become iron deficient over time
  • It is important to incorporate different types of iron-rich foods into your daily meals
  • Vegetarians may have a greater risk of IDA if they do not properly include iron-rich foods in their daily meals

Iron absorption issues2

  • Iron is mainly absorbed into the body through your small intestine
  • If you have an intestinal disorder called celiac disease, which affects your intestines’ ability to absorb nutrients, your body may also become iron deficient over time
  • If you have had surgery on your small intestine (for example bypass or removal of small segments), your body may not be absorbing iron and you may become iron deficient over time
graphic of a pregnant woman

Pregnancy2

  • Pregnancy can lead to IDA as a woman’s normal iron levels are not enough to compensate for their own increased blood volume
  • Pregnant women also require more iron as they are a primary source of hemoglobin for their fetus

In the U.S., the occurrence of IDA varies widely by gender and race4

  • Icon of a person

    2%

    adult men

  • Icon of a person in a dress

    9–12%

    non-Hispanic white women

  • Icon of a person in a dress

    ~20%

    black and Mexican-American women

What are the symptoms of Iron-Deficiency Anemia (IDA)?

There are various signs and symptoms of IDA. At first, the symptoms of IDA may be mild; however, as the body continues to lack iron, the anemia may become worse and the symptoms may increase.2

Contact your doctor if you have experienced any of these symptoms2:

  • graphic of person with brain and central nervous system
    Central

    Extreme fatigue (tiredness)

  • graphic of head and showing brain
    Head

    Headache
    Dizziness
    Lightheadedness

  • graphic of mouth
    Mouth

    Inflammation (swelling) or soreness of the tongue

  • graphic of lungs
    Lungs

    Shortness of breath

  • graphic of heart
    Heart

    Chest pain
    Fast heartbeat

  • graphic of stomach
    Stomach

    Poor appetite
    Unusual cravings for non-edible or non-nutritive substances such as ice, dirt, or starch

  • graphic of arm showing muscles
    Muscles

    Weakness

  • graphic of hand and foot
    Hands and feet

    Cold hands and feet

  • graphic of head showing an area of skin
    Skin

    Paleness

  • graphic of finger and fingernail
    Nails

    Nail brittleness

IDA should not be self-diagnosed or self-treated. It is important to speak to your doctor if you suspect you have IDA.

How is Iron-Deficiency Anemia (IDA) diagnosed?

IDA should not be self-diagnosed or self-treated. It is important to speak to your doctor if you suspect you have IDA.

graphic of blood drop with a plus sign inside and a test tube

Your doctor will run various blood tests to look at your5:

  • Red blood cells: Patients with IDA generally have smaller and paler red blood cells
  • Hematocrit measurement: This describes the percentage of your blood volume made up of red blood cells
  • Hemoglobin levels: Hemoglobin is the protein in the red blood cells that carries oxygen to the rest of your body
  • Ferritin levels: Ferritin is the protein in the red blood cells that stores iron in your body

Your doctor may also run additional tests to find out the underlying cause of IDA.

How is Iron-Deficiency Anemia (IDA) treated?

Once IDA is confirmed, your doctor may recommend treatment with a combination of5:

graphic of pill bottle with tablets inside

Iron supplements:

  • Various iron supplements are available, both prescription and over-the-counter
  • Your doctor will suggest/prescribe one that will best suit your needs and lifestyle
  • It is important to select an iron formulated to minimize uncomfortable side effects that can often accompany oral iron therapy
  • Learn more about the Ferralet® 90 Dual-Iron Delivery
graphic of balance with hamburger on one end and apple on the other

Dietary changes:

  • It is important to learn more about your daily recommended iron intake as well as various iron-rich foods you can incorporate into your meals
  • Learn more about iron

Will Iron-Deficiency Anemia (IDA) go away on its own?

graphic of letter I D A crossed out

No, IDA will not go away on its own.

In fact, left untreated IDA can lead to serious complications, including heart problems, a greater chance of getting infections, and pregnancy problems such as premature births and babies with low birth weight.2

References:

1. Mayo Clinic Staff. Anemia: symptoms & causes. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20351360. Accessed April 1, 2019.
2. Mayo Clinic Staff. Iron deficiency anemia: symptoms & causes. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/iron-deficiency-anemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355034. Accessed April 1, 2019.
3. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Genetics Home Reference. Beta thalassemia. Available at https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/beta-thalassemia. Accessed April 1, 2019.
4. Killip S, Bennett JM, Chambers MD. Iron deficiency anemia. Am Fam Physician. 2007;7(5):671-678.
5. Mayo Clinic Staff. Iron deficiency anemia: diagnosis & treatment. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/iron-deficiency-anemia/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20355040. Accessed April 1, 2019.