Causes Of Iron Deficiency Anemia: Factors Behind Low Iron Levels

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Anemia is of multiple types and Iron Deficiency Anemia is the most common amongst all. Nearly one-third of the global population suffers from Iron Deficiency Anemia, mainly women and children. Especially Black or African Americans are more prone to this condition due to the natural scenarios and environmental challenges present around them. Iron Deficiency Anemia is a blood disorder that can occur due to numerous reasons and is easy to tackle during the early stage. Explore Common Causes Of Iron Deficiency Anemia for Better Understanding and Treatment.

Here’s more about Iron Deficiency Anemia, its cause, symptoms, and treatment.

What is Iron Deficiency Anemia?

Iron Deficiency Anemia is the most common type of anemia, particularly a blood disorder. It is when one cannot produce enough amount of hemoglobin due to a lack of iron. This condition majorly affects the red blood cells, leading to a decrease in their quantity and thus impairing their ability to carry oxygen throughout the body. 

Iron Deficiency Anemia

Haemoglobin is a protein present in the red blood cells, and its role is to allow the RBC to carry oxygen from the lungs to different body parts. During Iron Deficiency anemia, when the hemoglobin is low, there’s a decline in the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood, leading to one or other symptoms. 

Symptoms of Iron Deficiency Anaemia

Iron Deficiency Anemia can have a range of symptoms depending upon the severity of the disorder. Here are some of the common experience symptoms among different groups:

  1. Fatigue: Unusual tiredness, lack of energy, and motivation are some of the common and early symptoms of anemia. The feeling of fatigue often appears due to the reduced ability of blood to carry oxygen sufficiently. 
  2. Pale Skin: Iron deficiency anemia is often associated with paler skin (particularly facial skin and palm) due to reduced hemoglobin levels.
  3. Unexplained Weakness: A general sense of physical and mental weakness without working enough due to unexplained reasons.
  4. Shortness of Breath: This symptom often occurs during the later stage of the disorder due to reduced oxygen circulating capacity.
  5. Lightheadedness or Dizziness: It happens due to a reduced supply of oxygen to the brain.
  6. Headache: Due to a reduced supply of oxygen to the brain, some people may also experience unexplained headaches.
  7. Cold Hands and Feet: Extremely cold hands and feet due to low blood circulation, especially amongst women.
  8. Sore Tongue or Mouth: Soreness or an unusual feeling inside the mouth.
  9. Brittle Nails: Change in the texture and thickness of nails with more chances of breakage.
  10. Restless Legs Syndrome: An uncomfortable sensation in the leg affecting the movement.

Causes of Iron Deficiency Anaemia

There are various causes leading to Iron Deficiency Anaemia and here are some of the most common ones amongst them:

  • Poor/ inadequate (Dietary) iron intake is one of the most common causes of Iron Deficiency anemia. Avoiding food items that aren’t enough iron-rich can be a reason.
  • Poor iron absorption can often lead to anemia. Sometimes, even when individuals consume an iron-rich diet, their body fails to absorb iron efficiently, leading to such disorders. Some of the conditions that hinder iron absorption include inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, and more.
  • Chronic and acute blood loss can often result in Iron Deficiency anemia. Blood loss due to heavy and long-lasting menstruation can be one of the common reasons. Or, gastrointestinal bleeding due to hemorrhoids, ulcers, and gastric can sometimes lead to blood loss through stools. In some cases, regular blood donation can also be the reason.
  • Some women may suffer from Iron Deficiency anemia during their pregnancy phase due to fetal development. However, this condition is normal amongst most women.
  • Some medical conditions can often interfere with the body’s natural ability to absorb iron and produce red blood cells.
  • Growth spurts in children and teenagers can be one of the reasons leading to conditions like Iron Deficiency and anemia.
  • A plant-based vegan or vegetarian diet, at times, may be insufficient to offer enough iron to the body. 
  • certain medications can also interfere with iron absorption, thus leading to Iron Deficiency anemia.

Treatments For Iron Deficiency Anaemia

After accessing your medical history symptoms and suggesting certain blood tests, a PCP or Hematologist may suggest the following treatment:

  • Iron Supplements in the form of syrup or tablets to increase the iron levels (and Haemoglobin) in the body. These supplements are often suggested to be taken on a daily basis for a few weeks to a month before another checkup.
  • Dietary changes include increased intake of iron-rich food items like meat, dark leafy greens, fortified cereals, tofu, and more. 
  • Vitamin C enhances better iron absorption.
  • In case of any underlying cause like heaving menstrual bleeding, gastrointestinal bleeding, and more, the doctor may suggest corrective medicine/ treatment for the same.
  • Blood transfusion in cases of severe iron deficiency or dangerously low levels of hemoglobin. 
  • In cases when iron supplements do not work, the doctor may also suggest intravenous iron therapy.

The treatment for Iron Deficiency anemia may approach different approaches depending upon the symptoms, severity of the condition, and age of the concerned individual. Besides taking the treatment, it is important to visit the doctor for regular follow-up, ensuring the treatment is working well, and there isn’t any decline in the condition.

Conclusion

Iron Deficiency anemia is a common blood disorder, and when addressed promptly, it is easily reversible. However, the condition isn’t self-diagnosable or treatable, and addressing it without professional medical help can lead to adverse health effects. Also, avoiding iron deficiency has severe side effects that make the chronic conditions even worse. Therefore, upon experiencing the symptoms, it is better to meet your nearest doctor (any general physician if not a specialist) timely. 

References

  • Alleyne M, Horne MK, Miller JL 2008. Individualized treatment for iron-deficiency anemia in adults. Am J Med 121: 943–948 [PMC free article]
  • Ahlquist DA, McGill DB, Schwartz S, Taylor WF, Owen RA 1985. Fecal blood levels in health and disease. A study using HemoQuant. N Engl J Med 312: 1422–1428 [PubMed]

Dr. David G Kiely is a distinguished Medical Reviewer and former General Medicine Consultant with a wealth of experience in the field. Dr. Kiely's notable career as a General Medicine Consultant highlights his significant contributions to the medical field.

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