What is iron? 

Iron is one of the minerals in the human body. Iron is necessary for good health. It is one of the components of hemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells that helps blood carry oxygen throughout the body. If you do not have enough iron, your body cannot make hemoglobin, and you may develop anemia. This is known as iron-deficiency anemia, the most common type of anemia. It is often undiagnosed and left untreated. Untreated IDA can become severe and lead to health problems, including:

  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat1
  • Premature births1
  • Low birth weight babies1
  • Poor performance on mental and psychomotor tests2

 Factors that can lower your body’s supply of iron include:

  • Blood loss (caused by ulcers, some cancers, and other conditions; and, in women, during monthly periods)
  • A diet that doesn’t have enough iron in it
  • An increase in the body’s need for iron (for instance, in women during pregnancy) 

What are the symptoms of anemia?

There are several symptoms that may occur in all types of anemia. They are:

  • Feeling tired
  • Paleness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Feeling cold (including the sensation that your hands or feet are colder than usual)
  • Infections (caused by problems with the immune system)

Who is most likely to develop iron-deficiency anemia?

 Anyone can develop iron-deficiency anemia, although the following groups have a higher risk:

  • Women: Blood loss during monthly periods and childbirth can lead to anemia.
  • People over 65, who are more likely to have iron-poor diets
  • People who are on blood thinners such as aspirin, Plavix®, Coumadin®, or heparin
  • People who have kidney failure (especially if they are on dialysis), because they have trouble making red blood cells
  • People who have trouble absorbing iron

How is anemia diagnosed?

Your health care provider can perform blood tests to tell if you have anemia. The type and number of blood tests will depend on what type of anemia your doctor thinks you might have. The blood tests will measure your hemoglobin and how much iron is in your body. If these levels are low, the doctor can make a diagnosis of anemia.

How is anemia treated?

Your health care provider will decide on the proper treatment, depending on the type of anemia and what is causing it. Your doctor must first find out if the anemia is being caused by a poor diet or a more serious health problem. You can then be treated for both the anemia and its cause. Iron-deficiency anemia is treated by eating foods that are high in iron, or with oral (taken by mouth) iron supplements.

 

 

 

REFERENCES: 1. Mayo Clinic. Diseases and Conditions, Iron deficiency anemia. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/iron-deficiency-anemia/basics/complications/con-20019327. Accessed April 3, 2015. 2. Screening for Iron Deficiency Anemia in Childhood and Pregnancy: Update of the 1996 U.S. Preventive Task Force Review . http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK33398/. Accessed April 3, 2015

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