What is iron deficiency anemia?

Iron deficiency anemia is a reduction in the number of healthy red blood cells produced due to an insufficient supply of iron in the body. It is the most common cause of anemia in the United States. Red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. A reduction in red blood cells limits the amount of oxygen reaching your limbs and organs and may cause various symptoms, including fatigue, dizziness, and pallor (pale skin).

Low levels of iron may be caused by blood loss, by the body’s inability to absorb sufficient iron from the digestive tract, or by low levels of iron in your diet. Pregnancy is also a cause of iron deficiency anemia in women due to the iron requirements of the growing fetus. Iron deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia in the United States. Approximately one-fifth of women and half of women who are pregnant, as well as 3% of men, do not have enough iron in their body and are at risk of developing iron deficiency anemia (Source: NIH).

Iron deficiency anemia is usually treated successfully with dietary changes and iron supplements. In severe cases, blood transfusions may be necessary. In many cases, iron deficiency anemia can be prevented by adequate dietary intake of iron or the use of iron supplements in people who are at risk.

Symptoms of iron deficiency anemia are often mild. Rarely, severe iron deficiency anemia may cause serious symptoms. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you develop serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing or chest pains. Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for iron deficiency anemia but have persistent or recurrent mild symptoms.


What are the symptoms of iron deficiency anemia?

If you have a mild case of iron deficiency anemia, you may not experience any symptoms. However, many common symptoms are associated with moderate to severe iron deficiency anemia and can vary in intensity among individuals.

Common symptoms of iron deficiency anemia

You may experience symptoms of iron deficiency anemia daily or just once in a while. At times, any of the... Read more about iron deficiency anemiasymptoms


What causes iron deficiency anemia?

Red blood cells contain a protein called hemoglobin, which carries oxygen from the lungs to other body tissues. Hemoglobin is made primarily of iron. When your iron levels are low, your body makes fewer red blood cells or makes red blood cells with less hemoglobin, and these cells cannot carry as much oxygen. Low iron levels may result from a diet lacking in iron, an inability to absorb enough ... Read more about iron deficiency anemiacauses


How is iron deficiency anemia treated?

Treatment for iron deficiency anemia begins with seeking medical care from your health care provider. To determine if you have iron deficiency anemia, your health care provider will likely draw blood samples for laboratory testing. Treatment depends on the severity and underlying cause of anemia.

The overall goal of iron deficiency anemia treatment is to restore iron levels to nor... Read more about iron deficiency anemiatreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 23, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Heart, Blood and Circulation, Anemia