What Is Iron-Deficiency Anemia?

Iron deficiency anemia is a typical type of anemia — a situation in which blood lacks sufficient healthy red blood cells (which your body requires to make hemoglobin.). Red blood cells maintain oxygen in the body’s tissues.

As the name suggests, iron deficiency anemia is due to insufficient iron. Without enough iron, your body can’t produce sufficiently a substance in red blood cells that allows them to carry oxygen (hemoglobin). As a consequence, iron deficiency may leave you tired and short of breath.

You can usually rectify iron deficiency anemia with iron supplementation. Occasionally additional tests or antidotes for iron deficiency anemia are essential, especially if your doctor doubts that you’re bleeding internally.

In women of childbearing age, a typical cause of iron deficiency is a loss of iron in the blood due to serious menstruation or pregnancy. A poor diet, or specific intestinal illnesses that concern how the body absorbs iron, can also cause iron-deficiency anemia.

What are the symptoms of iron deficiency anemia?

The symptoms of iron deficiency anemia can be soft at first, and you may not even detect them. According to the American Society of Hematology (ASH), most individuals don’t realize they have soft anemia until they have a regular blood test.

The symptoms of mild to severe iron deficiency can have:

  • Unrestrained fatigue
  • weakness
  • pale skin
  • shortness of breath
  • dizziness
  • Weird cravings to eat commodities with no nutritional value
  • a tingling or creeping sensation in the legs
  • tongue swelling or soreness
  • cold hands and feet
  • fast or uneven heartbeat
  • Flaky nails
  • headaches
  • Inflammation or soreness of your tongue
  • Uncommon cravings for non-nutritive substances, such as ice, dirt, or starch
  • Insufficient appetite is significantly in infants and children with iron deficiency anemia

What are the causes of iron deficiency anemia?

According to the ASH, iron deficiency is the most typical cause of anemia. There are many causes that an individual might become deficient in iron. These include:

Inadequate iron intake

Eating too smallish iron over a symbolic amount of time can cause a shortage in your body. Foodstuffs such as meat, eggs, and some green leafy vegetables are high in iron. Because iron is necessary during times of rapid growth and development, pregnant women and young children may need even more additional iron-rich foods in their diet.

Pregnancy or blood loss due to menstruation

Heavy menstrual bleeding is a typical cause of iron deficiency anemia in women of childbearing age. Without iron supplementation, iron deficiency happens in many pregnant women because their iron stores require to serve their own raised blood volume as well as be a source of hemoglobin for the growing fetus.

Internal bleeding

Certain medical circumstances can cause internal bleeding, which can lead to iron-deficiency anemia. Examples contain a stomach ulcer, polyps in the colon or intestines, or colon cancer. Frequent use of certain pain relievers, such as aspirin, can also instruct to bleeding in the stomach.

Inability to absorb iron

Certain disorders or surgeries that involve the intestines can also interrupt how your body absorbs iron. Even if you get sufficient iron in your diet, celiac disease or intestinal surgery such as gastric bypass may restrict the amount of iron your body can absorb.


If you have endometriosis, you may have serious blood loss during menstrual periods. You may not even know you have endometriosis because it appears hidden in the abdominal or pelvic area beyond the uterus.


Some situations— like celiac disease — that can make it hard to absorb enough iron are handed down through families. There are also genetic disorders or mutations that can add to the issue. One of these is the TMRPSS6 modification.

The risk factors & complications of iron deficiency anemia

Mild iron deficiency anemia usually doesn’t generate complications. However, left untreated, iron deficiency anemia can become unbearable and direct to health problems, including the following:

Heart problems

Iron deficiency anemia may direct to a rapid or unstable heartbeat. Your heart must pump more blood to recompense for the lack of oxygen maintained in your blood when you’re anemic. This can direct to an enlarged heart or heart failure.

Iron deficiency anemia patients
Iron deficiency anemia patients

Problems during pregnancy

In pregnant women, severe iron deficiency anemia has been connected to premature births and low birth weight babies. But the situation is preventable in pregnant women who acquire iron supplements as part of their prenatal care.

Growth problems

In infants and children, severe iron deficiency can direct to anemia as well as delayed growth and evolution. Additionally, iron deficiency is associated with expanded susceptibility to infections.

Some individuals may be at greater risk of iron-deficiency anemia than others, including:

  • Individuals with poor diets
  • Someone who donates blood frequently
  • vegetarians who don’t substitute meat with another iron-rich food
  • teenagers who have a tremendous need for iron in periods of rapid growth
  • adults over age 65
  • people revealed to lead in their atmosphere or in water
  • high execution and endurance athletes like marathon runners

If you’re at risk of iron deficiency, speak to a doctor to decide if blood testing or dietary modifications could benefit you.

Why is iron-deficiency anemia more familiar in women?

Pregnancy, effective menstrual bleeding, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids are all causes that women are more possible to experience iron-deficiency anemia.

Heavy menstrual bleeding ensues when a woman bleeds more or longer than usual during menstruation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), usual menstrual bleeding lasts for 4 to 5 days and the quantity of blood lost ranges from 2 to 3 tablespoons.

Women with extra menstrual bleeding typically bleed for more than 7 days and lose twice as much blood as usual.

A pelvic ultrasound can permit a doctor to look for the source of surplus bleeding during a woman’s period, such as fibroids. Like iron-deficiency anemia, uterine fibroids usually don’t cause symptoms. They happen when muscular tumors grow in the uterus.

While they’re not usually cancerous, fibroids can push heavy menstrual bleeding that can instruct to iron-deficiency.

How is iron-deficiency anemia treated?

How your iron deficiency anemia is treated will rely on how severe the issue is and what caused it in the first place. Most forms of this illness involve a lack of iron in your diet or issues with your body absorbing the iron you do consume. Below are some possibilities for treatment.

Iron supplements

Iron tablets can help revitalize iron levels in your body. If possible, you should take iron tablets on a vacant stomach, which helps the body absorb them nicely. If they worried your stomach, you can consider them with meals. You may require to take the supplements for several months. Iron supplements may generate constipation or black stools.


Diets that contain the following foods can assist treat or preventing iron deficiency:

  • red meat
  • dark green, green vegetables
  • dried fruits
  • nuts
  • iron-fortified grains

Also, vitamin C may assist your body to absorb iron. If you’re taking iron tablets, a doctor might recommend taking the tablets along with a source of vitamin C, such as a sip of orange juice or citrus fruit.

You may also need to believe things you eat or drink that can reduce your iron levels or lower your absorption of iron, like black tea.


When caused by insufficient iron intake, iron deficiency can be prevented by eating a diet high in iron-rich meals and vitamin C. Mothers should feed their newborns breast milk or iron-fortified infant formula. You can lower your risk of iron deficiency anemia by selecting iron-rich foods.

Choose iron-rich foods

Foods rich in iron contain:

  • Red meat, pork, and poultry
  • Seafood
  • Beans
  • Dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach
  • Dried fruit, such as raisins and apricots
  • Iron-fortified cereals, pieces of bread, and pasta
  • Peas

Your body absorbs additionally iron from meat than it does from other origins. If you prefer to not eat meat, you may need to improve your input of iron-rich, plant-based foods to absorb the exact amount of iron as does somebody who eats meat.

Select foods having vitamin C to improve iron absorption

You can improve your body’s absorption of iron by drinking citrus juice or eating other meals rich in vitamin C at the exact time that you consume high-iron foods. Vitamin C in citrus juices, like orange juice, enables your body to sufficiently absorb dietary iron.

Vitamin C is also located in:

  • Broccoli
  • Grapefruit
  • Kiwi
  • Leafy greens
  • Melons
  • Oranges
  • Peppers
  • Strawberries
  • Tangerines
  • Tomatoes

Preventing iron deficiency in newborns

To prevent iron deficiency anemia in newborns, provide your baby breast milk or iron-fortified formula for the first year. Cow’s milk isn’t a useful source of iron for newborns and isn’t suggested for infants under 1 year.     

               After age 6 months, start feeding your newborn iron-fortified cereals or pureed meats at least twice a day to increase iron intake.   

              After one year, be sure children don’t consume more than 20 ounces (591 milliliters) of milk a day. Too much milk often assumes the place of other meals, including those that are prosperous in iron.

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