Iron Deficiency Anaemia – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

Anaemia is a physiological condition in which there is a deficiency of healthy red blood cells such that the basic nutritional requirements of your body are not fulfilled. It is a serious condition if it is not treated at time and can even lead to the death of the individual. One of the common types of Anaemia which affects people is Iron deficiency Anaemia in which there is a deficiency of healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen rich blood to the body.

The red blood cells have a protein called haemoglobin which is essential to carry Oxygen as it binds with oxygen. Haemoglobin is made up of Iron and a protein. Iron deficiency Anaemia is caused by a long term deficiency of Iron in the body. This condition can be treated with lifestyle management but in cases of severe deficiencies medical interventions may be required to treat the condition. 

Iron Deficiency Anaemia

Iron Deficiency Anaemia is a deficiency based Anaemia which can affect anyone in any age group. It occurs when there is not enough iron in your blood required for the formation of Red Blood Cells. Since it occurs after a long deficiency of anaemia in the blood, most people don’t even know that they are suffering from Iron deficiency Anaemia until the symptoms of it are really prominent.

Some people may not even realise that they have Iron deficiency Anaemia even when they have been experiencing the symptoms for a long period of time. Iron deficiency Anaemia is not usually severe and can be managed with iron supplements and diet changes. It can also occur in Pregnant women because of poor diet but it resolves on its own in pregnant women.

The article given below will tell you all the information related to Iron deficiency Anaemia, its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and preventive measures of the condition.

What is Anaemia

Anaemia is a common nutritional disorder which can affect anyone. In this condition, the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells to fulfil the requirement of the body. There are many types of Anaemia and each of them has its own cause of occurrence. It can be a short term condition or a long term condition depending on the cause and the health of the patient.

Anaemia can occur because of more than one cause and it can range from mild to severe. It can also occur because of another condition and it can be a warning sign of a serious underlying condition which may require immediate medical attention. The symptoms of anaemia include fatigue, dizziness, malaise, shortness of breath which can be attributed to any condition thus making it difficult for the patient to pinpoint their symptoms to the exact cause. 

Most of the cases of Anaemia are not life threatening and people can cure it by following the instructions of their doctors and taking care of their diet. 

Iron Deficiency Anaemia - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

Types of Anaemia

There are many types of Anaemia each having its own cause of occurrence. The most common types of these are listed below.

  1. Iron deficiency Anaemia- It is caused due to a deficiency of Iron in blood which is necessary for the formation of normal red blood cells. It is usually caused as a result of a low iron diet, heavy blood loss, inability of the body to absorb iron, etc.
  2. Sickle Cell Anaemia- It is a genetic condition in which there is a mutation in the genetic code of a person which results in the formation of poorly shaped red blood cells. These cells are mostly sickle shaped and they are not able to carry enough Oxygen which is required by the body thus leading to Anaemia.
  3. Vitamin Deficiency Anaemia- Your body also requires Vitamin B12 for the proper formation of red blood cells which is absorbed via the small intestine. Any deficiency of folate in your diet or malabsorption of folate from the food can result in its deficiency in your body and thus leads to Vitamin deficiency Anaemia.
  4. Aplastic Anaemia- It is a rare type of Anaemia which can be fatal if not treated timely. In this condition the body does not produce enough red blood cells. The patient may require blood from outside to fulfil its requirements.
  5. Hemolytic Anaemia- In this type of Anaemia, the bone marrow is not able to produce red blood cells efficiently. The red blood cells are destroyed faster than they are produced thus leading to Anaemia.
  6. Anaemia caused by other conditions- Many long term medical conditions such as Crohn’s disease, Cancer, AIDS/HIV, Kidney disease etc. can lead to the development of anaemia in the patients.

Causes of Iron Deficiency Anaemia

Iron deficiency Anaemia is mainly a nutritional deficiency disorder and it can occur because of the following reasons. 

  1. Excessive Blood Loss- Iron deficiency Anaemia can occur in patients who have recently lost a lot of blood. The blood loss can be due to heavy menstrual bleeding, a tumour, cancer, internal bleeding, peptic ulcers, etc. if these causes are not monitored timely then they can lead to life threatening situations.
  2. Iron Deficient Diet- A diet which is low in iron for a long period of time can result in Iron deficiency Anaemia. The body will use up all the iron reserves that it has stored in Liver and the bone marrow. 
  3. Inability of the body to absorb iron from food- In some cases, the small intestine is unable to absorb iron from the food which passes through it. This can lead to the development of iron deficiency in the body even if you take iron in your diet.
  4. Pregnancy- It is the most common cause of Iron deficiency Anaemia. The iron reserves in the body of the mother are supplied to the growing foetus leading to a deficiency in the mother. If the mother does not take iron supplements then it can lead to severe anaemia which can even affect the child.

Symptoms of Iron Deficiency Anaemia

Iron Deficiency Anaemia can present itself with the common symptoms of all the other anaemia. It can even present the symptoms of other medical conditions which can be hard to distinguish. The common symptoms of Iron Deficiency Anaemia are given below.

  1. Pale skin and brittle nails.
  2. Extreme fatigue and weakness.
  3. Chest pain and fast or irregular heartbeat
  4. Headache, dizziness and shortness of breath
  5. Cold hands and feet even at normal room temperature
  6. Unusual cravings for non nutritive things such as ice.
  7. Loss of appetite and being a picky eater
  8. Tingling or crawling sensation in your feet
  9. Mood changes and irritability
  10. Soreness of the tongue

Diagnosis of Iron Deficiency Anaemia

To confirm the diagnosis of Iron Deficiency Anaemia your doctor will perform a series of tests. Some of the common diagnostic tests are given below.

  1. Microscopic analysis of red blood cells- Your doctor will take a blood sample from you and analyse it under a microscope to analyse its size, shape and colour. Normally, the red blood cells in Iron Deficiency Anaemia are smaller and paler than normal red blood cells.
  2. Haemoglobin- The amount of haemoglobin present in the red blood cells is analysed. If your red blood cells have lower than the normal amount of haemoglobin then your doctor may suspect Anaemia.
  3. Hematocrit level-  Hematocrit levels indicate the volume of red blood cells in the blood. If this is below the normal range of 35.5 to 45.0 then it means that your blood does not have enough red blood cells.
  4. Ferritin Levels- Ferritin is a protein which is essential for the storage of iron in your body. Low levels of this protein indicate an iron deficiency in the person.
  5. Tests for Internal Bleeding- Your doctor may recommend these tests if they suspect that your anaemia is caused due to internal bleeding. An Endoscopy or a colonoscopy may be conducted to check for internal bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract.

Treatment of Iron Deficiency Anaemia

The treatment of Iron Deficiency Anaemia includes dietary changes and the inclusion of iron supplements. Your doctor may recommend the following treatment methods to treat your Iron Deficiency Anaemia.

  1. Iron Supplements- The foremost step on the treatment of Iron Deficiency Anaemia is prescribing iron supplements to the patient to fulfil their iron requirements and to promote the formation of red blood cells.
  2. Vitamin Supplements- Your doctor may also recommend you to take Vitamin C supplements. It has been proved that Vitamin C helps in the absorption of iron in the small intestine. This can also help in building up your immunity against other conditions.
  3. Treatment of High menstrual flow- You may be prescribed birth control medication in order to decrease the flow of menstrual blood.
  4. Blood Transfusion- The patient may need a blood transfusion if there is excessive blood loss due to the internal or external bleeding to treat the resultant anaemia.
  5. High Iron diet- Iron Deficiency Anaemia can be treated mainly with proper diet. Your doctor will recommend a high protein diet which you will have to follow for at least 6 months in order to treat Iron Deficiency Anaemia. 

Prevention of Iron Deficiency Anaemia

Iron Deficiency Anaemia is a disorder which can easily be prevented by just a few lifestyle changes. You should follow the tips given below in order to prevent Iron Deficiency Anaemia and all other types of Anaemia as well.

  1. Take a healthy diet- Everyone should make sure to take a healthy diet which includes green leafy vegetables and protein rich foods in order to fulfil all the nutritional requirements of your body.
  2. Take Iron supplements during pregnancy- Even if you are taking a healthy diet during your pregnancy, it is essential that you take iron supplements too. This will prevent the loss of iron from your body and will also fulfil the iron requirements of your baby.
  3. Feed Breastmilk to your baby- New mothers should always feed breast milk to their babies. Breast milk contains all of the nutrients necessary for the growing infant and no other supplement will be required.
  4. Include Vitamin C and iron in your diet- If you have recovered from any type of anaemia then it is necessary for you to include iron and Vitamin C in your diet so that you do not develop the condition again.
  5. Get Regular Health Check ups- Ensure that you get regular health check ups so that you do not miss the early signs of any disorder. You should get a full body health check up every 3 months.
  6. Exercise Regularly- Including regular work out sessions of at least 1 hour in your daily routine will help you to prevent a lot of diseases and disorders. This will also promote more formation of red blood cells.

FAQs Related to Iron Deficiency Anaemia

What causes Iron Deficiency Anaemia?

Iron Deficiency Anaemia occurs when there is not enough iron in your blood required for the formation of Red Blood Cells. It is a deficiency based Anaemia which can affect anyone in any age group. It can also occur due to excess blood loss and during pregnancy.

Are there any side effects of Iron supplements?

Iron supplements may lead to constipation, heartburn, stomach pain and black stool. in some patients. There are no serious side effects of Iron supplements and even these side effects are not experienced by everyone.

Do I need to be hospitalised if I have Iron Deficiency Anaemia?

No, you do not need to be hospitalised if you have Iron Deficiency Anaemia. It can be treated with iron supplements and dietary changes. You will only require hospitalisation if your symptoms do not improve or if your red blood cell count is extremely low.

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