Iron deficiency anemia
If you are experiencing excessive fatigue, muscle cramps and headache regularly, get yourself checked for iron deficiency anemia. Although these are the common signs and symptoms of this disease, the symptoms are not limited to this. Before you could know the other symptoms of this disease, which is quite common, here’s a brief description of the disease.
Iron deficiency anaemia — what is it?
Iron deficiency anemia is one of the most common forms of anemia that affects all age groups. As the name suggests, it is caused due to low levels of iron in the body. Iron is an essential mineral used in the production of haemoglobin that helps in the transportation of oxygen in the body. If you have low levels of iron, there is decreased production of haemoglobin leading less supply of oxygen.
In case of mild iron–deficiency anemia, most people do not show any specific signs. However, as your condition worsens due to severe deficiency of iron, you tend to experience the symptoms such as –
- Tiredness or weakness
- Muscle cramps
- Grumpy feeling
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Shortness of breath
- Pica (craving for substances such as sand, ice, etc.)
- Mouth sores
- Pale skin
- Nail abnormalities --brittle nails or Koilonychia (spoon-shaped nails)
- Cracks or fissures at the corners of the mouth
- Smooth red painful tongue
Here are top 10 symptoms of anemia you should know about.
The common causes of iron deficiency anaemia include –
Lack of iron in your diet: Your body gets its daily dose of iron from the food that you eat. The common foods sources that are loaded with this mineral include meat, eggs and leafy vegetables. However, if you are vegetarian or do not consume iron-rich foods on a regular basis, your body may become iron deficient over time. Here are 6 reasons why your body needs iron.
Loss of blood: As blood is rich in iron, if there is loss of blood, there is a decrease in the overall content of iron in the body. Women with heavy menstrual bleeding and those suffering from chronic conditions like peptic ulcer, colorectal cancer or a colon polyp can lead to iron deficiency anaemia. Apart from this, regular use of OTC drugs like aspirin might cause gastrointestinal bleeding.
Pregnancy: There is a high chance that pregnant women might suffer from iron-deficiency anaemia. Pregnant women need to supply iron for the haemoglobin synthesis of the growing fetus along with serving their haemoglobin production. Hence, pregnant women are always recommended iron supplements to keep their iron levels in check. Are you aware of these 6 causes of anemia during pregnancy?
Inefficient absorption of iron: The intestine absorbs the iron present in the food. However, in case of an intestinal disorder such as celiac disease or Crohn disease, there is a decreased absorption of iron. Also, if a part of the intestine has been surgically removed (gastric bypass), its ability to absorb iron decreases drastically.
Dr Abha Shroff, chief pathologist and director at Disha Pathology Labs, Mumbai says that the diagnosis of anemia is based on the symptoms observed by the patient. Although these symptoms are often confused with other diseases, early diagnosis can help in proper treatment and thus, prevent various health complications. The common blood tests that are recommended are as follows –
- Complete Blood Count (CBC)
- Serum iron test
- Total iron binding capacity (TIBC) test
- Transferrin Saturation/ Iron saturation test
- Ferritin test
Here is a detailed explanation of these common diagnostic tests used to determine if you are anemic or not.
Apart from this, there are few tests that are recommended to know the underlying cause of anemia and thus, treat accordingly. These include –
Colonoscopy – This test inspects the entire intestine to check for bleeding in your stomach or intestine.
Fecal occult blood test (FOBT) – This is used to determine the presence of blood in the stool.
Endoscopy – It is used to check for stomach ulcers or any bleeding in the stomach, which in turn might lead to iron-deficiency anemia.
Ultrasound – In case of heavy menstrual bleeding, your doctor might recommend a pelvic ultrasound to look for the exact cause of iron deficiency.
The common treatment options include eating food rich in iron or taking iron supplements to replenish your body stores of iron.
Iron supplements: Depending upon your hematocrit, your doctor will recommend the exact dose of iron. In most cases, the iron levels in your body are checked before the start of the treatment and then after two months of the therapy. Although it takes two months time for your blood to show normal hematocrit levels, the therapy might be continued for six months or a year. Also read about 6 supplements that are good for your health.
Foods rich in iron: Make sure your diet includes foods rich in iron; it is the best (and natural) way to restore your blood levels of iron. Some of the common sources of iron-rich foods include green leafy vegetables, til or sesame seeds, legumes, fish and meat. Go through this list of foods rich in iron and calcium.
Here are few tips you need to keep in mind, to enhance the absorption of iron and fulfil your requirement of iron.
- Avoid taking iron pills with antacids, calcium-rich foods and beverages containing caffeine as they hinder with iron absorption. Here are 5 foods you should avoid if you have anemia.
- If you are pregnant or are breastfeeding, make sure your intake of iron is sufficient to fulfil your daily need as well as your child’s requirement (ask your doctor about the same)
- To increase the absorption of iron, include foods rich in vitamin C in your diet. Also, steaming the vegetables retain the iron content in the food thereby increasing your iron intake. Here are 15 ways Vitamin C keeps you healthy and fit!
- Follow your doctor’s instructions properly (and never self-medicate as excess iron can be dangerous too)
Also, read about 4 ways anemia can be treated.
With proper treatment aimed at eating iron-rich foods and proper monitoring, your blood levels of iron usually return to normal. However, the outlook of the treatment is dependent on the cause of the condition.
Here is a diet and fitness guide for anemic patients.
All you need to do to get treated for iron-deficiency anemia is to improve your blood levels of iron. This is can be achieved by eating the following foods that are rich in iron.
Read in detail about these 7 natural remedies to keep anaemia at bay.