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Iron deficiency anemia means that your body doesn't have the iron it needs to make enough red blood cells.
Having enough iron is important since red blood cells carry oxygen to the tissues in your body. With fewer red blood cells, your blood isn't able to carry enough oxygen to the cells in your body. This can make you feel weak and tired or dizzy.
Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anemia.
Iron deficiency anemia is caused by low levels of iron in the body. This can happen if you're not getting enough iron in your diet or if your body isn't absorbing enough iron. And it happens when you have prolonged bleeding, such as heavy menstrual bleeding or bleeding from stomach ulcers.
You may not notice the symptoms of iron deficiency anemia. That's because it may develop slowly, and your symptoms may be mild. As anemia gets worse, you may feel weak and tired or dizzy. You may get headaches or feel short of breath.
To diagnose iron deficiency anemia, your doctor will do a physical exam and ask about your health and symptoms. Your doctor will also do blood tests. These tests may include a complete blood count to look at your red blood cells and an iron test that shows how much iron is in your blood.
To treat iron deficiency anemia, your doctor will try to find the cause of the anemia and treat that problem. Your doctor can recommend ways to increase your iron levels, such as taking iron supplement pills and eating iron-rich foods. Talk to your doctor before taking iron pills.
You can help prevent iron deficiency anemia by eating iron-rich foods every day. These include meats, vegetables, and whole grains. To help prevent anemia in babies and children, follow recommendations for feeding infants. Make sure that babies and children get enough iron. If you're pregnant, you can take prenatal vitamins that include iron.
Iron deficiency anemia is caused by low levels of iron in the body. You might have low iron levels from:
Your body needs iron to make a protein called hemoglobin. This protein is found in red blood cells. It carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the cells in your body. If you don't get enough iron, your body makes fewer and smaller red blood cells. As a result, your body's cells may not get enough oxygen.
Most people can get the iron their bodies need by eating enough iron-rich foods. Your doctor may advise you to take an iron supplement along with eating an iron-rich diet.
Iron deficiency anemia usually develops slowly, and the symptoms may be mild. Mild anemia may not cause noticeable symptoms. If anemia is severe, symptoms may include:
Other signs may include:
Babies and small children who have anemia may:
Iron deficiency anemia usually develops slowly. As anemia gets worse, you may feel weak and tired or dizzy. Or you may get headaches. Your doctor will try to find the cause of the anemia and treat that problem. Most people start to feel better after treatment begins.
Your doctor will do a physical exam and ask about your symptoms and past health. Your doctor may ask about:
You'll have tests to help find the cause of anemia. Tests may include:
To treat iron deficiency anemia, your doctor will look for the cause of the anemia and treat that problem. Your doctor can recommend ways to increase your iron levels, such as taking iron supplement pills and eating iron-rich foods.
Most people start to feel better after a few weeks of taking iron pills. But don't stop taking them, even if you feel better. You'll need to keep taking the pills for several months to build up the iron in your body.
You may need to get iron through an I.V. if you have problems with the iron pills. If your anemia is severe, your doctor may give you a blood transfusion.
If you have iron deficiency anemia, your doctor may suggest taking iron supplement pills. Taking iron pills and getting enough iron in your food will correct most cases of iron deficiency anemia.
Here are some things you need to know when treating this condition.
If you think you have anemia, see your doctor. Do not try to treat yourself.
You may feel better after a few weeks of taking iron pills. But don't stop taking the pills. You'll need to keep taking them for several months to build up your iron stores.
Iron-rich foods include meats, vegetables, whole grains, and fortified cereals.
Iron is absorbed best if you take it on an empty stomach. But in some people, iron supplements can cause problems such as stomach discomfort and constipation.
Iron poisoning can be very dangerous.
Current as of:
April 12, 2023
Author: Healthwise StaffClinical Review Board: All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.
Current as of: April 12, 2023
Clinical Review Board:
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2023 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
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