Iron deficiency anemia is a common type of anemia that occurs when your body doesn't have enough iron. Iron is a mineral that your body needs to make hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout your body. When you don't have enough iron, your body can't make enough hemoglobin, and your red blood cells become smaller and paler. This can lead to a shortage of oxygen in your body, which can cause a variety of symptoms.
What are the causes of iron deficiency?
There are many causes of iron deficiency, including:
- Blood loss: The most common cause of iron deficiency is blood loss. This can be caused by menstruation, childbirth, surgery, or a digestive tract disorder such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease.
- Inability to absorb iron: Some people have a condition that makes it difficult for their bodies to absorb iron from food. This condition is called iron malabsorption.
- Inadequate intake of iron: If you don't eat enough iron-rich foods, you may develop iron deficiency. Good sources of iron include red meat, poultry, fish, beans, lentils, and dark green vegetables.
What are the symptoms of iron deficiency anemia?
The symptoms of iron deficiency anemia vary depending on the severity of the condition. Mild iron deficiency may not cause any symptoms, but more severe iron deficiency can cause the following symptoms:
- Fatigue: One of the most common symptoms of iron deficiency anemia is fatigue. You may feel tired and weak, even after getting a good night's sleep.
- Shortness of breath: Iron deficiency anemia can also cause shortness of breath, especially with exertion.
- Pale skin: Your skin may become pale, especially the inside of your eyelids.
- Headaches: Iron deficiency anemia can also cause headaches.
- Brittle nails: Your nails may become brittle and break easily.
- Irritability: Iron deficiency anemia can also cause irritability and mood swings.
How is iron deficiency anemia diagnosed?
Your doctor can diagnose iron deficiency anemia with a blood test. The blood test will measure your hemoglobin levels and your red blood cell count. If your hemoglobin levels are low or your red blood cell count is low, you may have iron deficiency anemia.
Therapy: What to do if you have iron deficiency anemia
The treatment for iron deficiency anemia depends on the severity of the condition. Mild iron deficiency may be treated with iron supplements. More severe iron deficiency may require a blood transfusion.
If you have iron deficiency anemia, it is important to eat a healthy diet that includes plenty of iron-rich foods. You should also avoid foods that can interfere with iron absorption, such as tea, coffee, and dairy products.
Iron deficiency anemia is a common condition, but it is usually easily treatable. If you think you may have iron deficiency anemia, see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.