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Iron Deficiency Anemia

Definition


Disease: Iron Deficiency Anemia Iron Deficiency Anemia
Category: Blood diseases & tumors
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Disease Definition:

Red blood cells carry oxygen to the body’s tissues, giving the body energy and the skin a healthy color. The condition when the blood lacks adequate healthy red blood cells is known as iron deficiency anemia which is a common type of anemia.

When there isn’t enough iron, then iron deficiency anemia occurs. Without sufficient iron, the body will be unable to produce sufficient hemoglobin, a substance in red blood cells that enables them to carry oxygen. Consequently, iron deficiency anemia may leave the person pale, weak and tired.

Iron deficiency anemia can often be corrected with iron supplementation. Sometimes, additional treatments for iron deficiency anemia are necessary, especially when one’s internally bleeding.

Work Group:


Prepared by: Scientific Section

Symptoms, Causes

Symptoms:

Iron deficiency anemia can be mild at first that a person wouldn't even notice it. But the signs and symptoms intensify as the body becomes more deficient in iron and anemia gets worse.
The following are iron deficiency anemia symptoms:

 

 

  • Irritability
  • Brittle nails
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Pale skin
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Increased likelihood of infections
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Headache
  • Restless legs syndrome, an uncomfortable tingling or crawling feeling in the legs
  • Inflammation or soreness of the tongue
  • Poor appetite, especially in infants and children suffering from iron deficiency anemia
  • Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
  • Unusual cravings for non-nutritive substances, like dirt, pure starch or ice
  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath


When signs and symptoms that suggest iron deficiency anemia are apparent, then consulting a doctor would be wise. Iron deficiency anemia isn’t something to self-diagnose or treat. Iron supplements should only be taken under a doctor’s supervision. Overloading the body with iron can be dangerous due to extra iron accumulation can damage the liver and result in other complications.

Causes:

Hemoglobin is the part of red blood cells that gives blood its red color and enables the blood cells to carry oxygenated blood throughout the body. Normally, the body uses iron from the eaten food or recycled iron from old red blood cells in order to produce hemoglobin.
In case one is either losing too much iron or not consuming sufficient iron, the body will be unable to produce enough hemoglobin, and iron deficiency anemia will eventually develop.
The following are common causes for the development of iron deficiency anemia:


Blood Loss: The most common reason behind the occurrence of iron deficiency anemia is blood loss. The reason is that blood contains iron within red blood cells, which is why losing blood means losing some iron. Women with heavy periods are at risk of iron deficiency anemia due to the loss of blood during menstruation. Slow, chronic blood loss within the body like from a peptic ulcer, a kidney or bladder tumor, a colon polyp, colorectal cancer, or uterine fibroids can result in iron deficiency anemia. Gastrointestinal bleeding can be the outcome of regular use of aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). A doctor should be informed when one notices blood in their urine or stools.


A Lack of Iron in the Diet: The body regularly gets iron from food which is eaten. When consuming too little iron, iron deficiency can occur over time. Meat, dairy products, iron-fortified foods and eggs are included among the iron-rich foods. Infants and children need iron from their diet for proper growth and development.


An Inability to Absorb Iron: Iron is absorbed from food into the bloodstream in the small intestine. An intestinal disorder, such as Crohn's disease or celiac disease, which affects the intestine’s ability to absorb nutrients from digested food, can contribute to iron deficiency anemia. One’s ability to absorb iron and other nutrients may be affected in case part of the small intestine has been either bypassed or surgically removed. Certain medications can interfere with iron absorption. For instance, regular use of medications that decrease stomach acid may lead to iron deficiency anemia. The body needs stomach acid, which these products suppress, to convert dietary iron into a form that can readily be absorbed by the small intestine.


Pregnancy: Iron deficiency anemia occurs in many pregnant women without taking iron supplementation due to the need of their iron stores to serve their own high blood volume as well as be a source of hemoglobin for the growing fetus. A fetus needs iron to develop red blood cells, muscle and blood vessels.

The following factors may increase the risk of iron deficiency anemia:

 

 

  • Pregnancy
  • A known or hidden source of bleeding within the body like an ulcer, a uterine fibroid, a colon polyp, gastrointestinal bleeding, colorectal cancer or a bleeding tumor
  • Heavy menstrual periods
  • A diet consistently low in iron


The following groups of people may be at an increased risk:


Women: Women are at greater risk of iron deficiency anemia in general due to the loss of blood during menstruation.
Infants and Children: Infants, especially those who were low birth weight or born prematurely, who are unable to get sufficient iron from breast milk or formula are at a higher risk of iron deficiency. Extra iron is needed for children during their growth spurts, due to iron being essential for muscle development. In case the child isn’t eating a healthy, varied diet, they may be at a high risk of anemia.
Vegetarians: They’re at higher risk of iron deficiency anemia because vegetarians do not eat meat. Iron that comes from grains and vegetable isn’t absorbed by the body as well as is iron that comes from meat.


Iron deficiency often indicates bleeding somewhere in the gastrointestinal tract in healthy men and postmenopausal women.


Donating blood, A source of blood loss, isn’t a common risk factor for iron deficiency anemia unless one has given blood repeatedly over a short time. However, some people first learn their hemoglobin is low that indicate anemia when they offer to donate blood. Low hemoglobin may be a short term problem remedied by eating more iron-rich foods. It may be an additional warning sign of blood loss in the body. Consulting a doctor would be wise in case one is told that they’re unable to donate blood due to loss of hemoglobin.

Complications

Complications:

Complications usually don’t result from mild iron deficiency anemia. However, iron deficiency anemia can become severe and contribute to health problems when isn’t promptly treated, such as:


Heart problems: Iron deficiency anemia may contribute to quick or irregular heartbeat. When one’s anemic, the heart must pump more blood to compensate for the lack of oxygen carried in the blood. In people with coronary artery disease (narrowing of the arteries that supply the heart) unchecked anemia can lead to angina. Angina is chest pain resulting from reduced oxygen and blood flow to the heart muscle.
Problems during pregnancy: Severe iron deficiency anemia has been related to premature births and low birth weight babies in pregnant women. But the condition is easily preventable in pregnant women who receive iron supplements as part of their prenatal care.
Growth problems: Anemia as well as delayed growth can result from severe iron deficiency in infants and children. When iron deficiency anemia isn’t promptly treated, it can result in physical and mental delays in infants and children in areas like talking and walking. Iron deficiency anemia is also related to a greater incidence of lead poisoning and a high susceptibility to infections.

Treatments:

Although it is often not sufficient, high intake of iron-rich foods will be helpful when one has reached the point of developing anemia resulting from an iron deficiency. Iron supplementation is required to build back iron reserves as well as meeting the body’s daily iron needs. Iron supplements help provide sufficient iron for both the mother and her fetus in pregnant women.


Taking a daily multivitamin containing iron may be recommended for children or adults suffering from mild iron deficiency. But iron tablets are typically recommended like prescription ferrous sulfate tablets or an over-the-counter supplement. These oral iron supplements are often best absorbed from an otherwise empty stomach. However, Supplements with food might be required to be taken due to iron being able to irritate stomach. Iron supplements may be recommended to be taken with orange juice or with a vitamin C tablet. Vitamin C helps increasing iron absorption. Iron supplements should also be taken two hours before or four hours after taking an antacid, as these medications are able to interfere with iron absorption.


Iron supplements can result in constipation, which is why a stool softener may additionally be recommended. Iron almost always turns stools black, which is a harmless side effect. Iron can be given by injection, but this usually isn't necessary.


Iron supplements should be taken for several months or longer to replenish the iron reserves since it isn’t able to correct iron deficiency overnight. One will begin feeling better after a week or so of treatment in general. Pregnant women regularly take prescription iron supplements for the duration of their pregnancy, to prevent or treat iron deficiency anemia.
Breast milk may not contain sufficient iron for a growing infant depending on the mother’s diet. Most infant formulas contain adequate iron, but some babies need additional iron. Additional iron shouldn’t be given without talking to a doctor first, which is why asking the doctor whether the baby needs any extra iron or not would be wise.


Treating causes other than poor diet
Supplements alone aren’t enough to raise blood-iron levels in adults, it’s likely the anemia has resulted from more than an iron-poor diet. It may be because of a source of bleeding or an iron-absorption problem that the doctor should be investigating in order to treat. Depending on the cause, iron deficiency anemia treatment may involve:

 

 

  • Antibiotics and other medications to treat peptic ulcers
  • Surgery to remove a bleeding polyp, a tumor or a fibroid
  • Medications, like an oral contraceptives to lighten heavy menstrual flow

Blood transfusions are able to help replace iron and hemoglobin rapidly, in case iron deficiency anemia is severe.

Prognosis:

Not Available

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