An inadequate amount of iron in the body leads to iron deficiency anaemia(Also anemia)Iron is a mineral that our bodies need for many functions. Too little iron in your body will lead to Iron-deficiency Anaemia while having too much Iron intake will lead to Iron poisoning. Some people inherit a disease called Hemochromatosis which causes Iron buildup in the body.
What are the causes of low iron in the body? Causes can be;
Haemoglobin, which is a substance found in Red blood cells contains Iron, therefore any significant loss of blood will lead to loss of Iron. This blood loss can be through;
- Menstruation cycle in ladies who receive heavy monthly periods.
- Can be through accidents where there is a great loss of blood.
- Gastrointestinal blood loss is caused by frequent intake of drugs such as Aspirin.
- Chronic conditions such as Peptic Ulcer
People taking a diet poor in Iron are at risk of developing Iron Deficiency Anaemia.
Inability to absorb Iron
From food in patients with conditions that cause poor absorption of nutrient, for example, Celiac Disease
Iron deficiency anaemia occurs in many pregnant women because their iron stores need to serve their increased blood volume as well as be a source of haemoglobin for the growing fetus. This is why Iron supplements are recommended to pregnant women.
People at higher risk of developing this condition are;
- Pregnant women.
- Frequent blood donors.
- People with chronic conditions such as Peptic ulcers.
Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms can not be easily be seen at first but the signs and symptoms become more apparent as appear the conditions worsens.
The signs and symptoms common are;
- Loss of appetite especially in infants and children.
- Chest pain.
- Apnea – Shortness of breath.
- Tachycardia – Fast heart beats more than 100 beats per minute.
- Pale skin
- Cold hands and feet.
- Inflammation or soreness of your tongue.
Iron deficiency Anaemia must be noted while is still mild, as there are no complications in this stage. In the severe stage, it can lead to the following complications;
- Heart failure. The heart will have fast heartbeats to compensate, this will lead to conditions such as an enlarged heart which is an adaptation of the heart.
- Growth problems in infants and children.
- Problems during pregnancy period for example Low birth weight.
Including Iron-rich food in your diet is the best method for preventing the development of Iron deficiency anaemia. Many foods can be a rich source of Irons including;
- Meat – Mutton, red meat, Poultry and Pork
- Legumes e.g. Beans, green peas, soybeans etc.
- Green leafy vegetables including Kales and Spinach, just to mention a few.
- Infants should be breastfed for not less than 6 months to avoid Iron deficiency anaemia, after which you can start feeding them iron-fortified foods.
Please note: A small piece of meat contains large amounts of Iron, therefore vegetarians have to take off the other products to obtain the same amount of iron needed.
The doctor can perform the following tests to Diagnose Iron Deficiency Anaemia;
- Haemoglobin. this is to check the levels of haemoglobin in your blood. The Normal results for adults vary, but in general, are Male: 13.8 to 17.2 grams per Deciliter (g/dl) or 138 to 172 grams per litre (g/L) Female: 12.1 to 15.1 g/dl or 121 to 151 g/L. Levels lower than these levels will indicate that the patient may be having Iron Deficiency Anaemia. These values will value depending on your age.
- Hematocrit. This is the percentage of a patient’s blood volume that is made up of Erythrocytes (red blood cells). This value will be lower in patients with Iron deficiency anaemia. The values will also vary according to age. The normal Hematocrit values in adults are between 38.3 to 48.6 per cent for men and, between 35.5 to 44.9 per cent for women.
- Colonoscopy. This can be used to detect any Gastrointestinal bleeding that is suspected to be the underlying issue.
Please leave a comment on any other test that can be used.
Treatment of Iron Deficiency Anaemia
The logic behind this is simple, in iron deficiency anaemia, a person has a decreased level of iron in the body, which will lead to reduced red blood cell production. Therefore, these supplements will help bring up a person’s iron levels in the body. Please note that one should follow the doctor’s instructions to the latter to avoid having excess iron in the body.
This in turn will lead to the production of more red blood cells, therefore reversing the iron deficiency anaemia. Some of the important instructions to follow strictly when using Iron supplements are:
- You should take iron tablets on an empty stomach.
- Never take iron supplements with anti-acids. They reduce the absorption of Iron.
- Take iron tablets with vitamin C. Vitamin C improves the absorption of iron.
The doctor will also recommend a stool softener because Iron supplements can cause constipation, a stool softener. You should also be patient because Iron deficiency can not be corrected overnight. If you see the above signs and symptoms, please consult with your doctor. Never assume that you could be having a condition just from reading from the internet. Also, articles written on Medical Advice Channel, although well researched and accurate, are for educational purposes only. Therefore never try to self medicate from what you read on the internet. Seek advice from your doctor.
To get more information about anaemia, please read our article on other types of Anaemia
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