What is iron deficiency anemia?
If you have anemia, your blood does not have enough red blood cells or hemoglobin (a protein in your red blood cells) to take oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body.
Iron deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia that happens when you don’t have enough iron to make healthy red blood cells. This can cause extreme tiredness, trouble breathing and poor quality of life. It can happen in both women and men, but it’s more common in women.
What causes iron deficiency anemia?
There are many reasons your iron may be low.
Symptoms of iron deficiency anemia
Most people don’t have symptoms with mild iron deficiency anemia. Patients with moderate or severe iron deficiency anemia may have:
Why is iron deficiency anemia serious?
Iron deficiency anemia can range from mild to severe. Patients with mild or moderate iron deficiency anemia may appear normal without any symptoms.
When anemia is more severe, people may experience shortness of breath, dizziness, fatigue, poor ability to exercise or chest pain. Untreated iron deficiency anemia can cause many health problems, including damage to your heart and other organs.
Testing for the cause of iron deficiency anemia
Treatments for iron deficiency anemia
Increase iron stores
Your health care provider may recommend iron replacement with medication taken by mouth or intravenously, directly into your vein.
You can also boost iron absorption in your body by eating foods high in vitamin C. Consider cooking food in iron pots to add more iron to your foods.
Change your diet
Try to eat a well-balanced diet including iron rich foods such as dark, leafy greens, nuts and seeds, seafood, meat, beans, and vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables.
Only about 10 to 30% of the iron you eat, such as from 1 to 3 sections of an orange, is absorbed and used by your body.