Causes and Symptoms of Iron-deficiency Anemia

By: Mike Singh

Iron-Deficiency Anemia
Normally, extra iron is stored in your body and then used to produce hemoglobin in newly developed red blood cells. Most of this iron is recovered as old red blood cells are destroyed. The small amount of iron lost from the body is replaced by iron absorbed from your diet. Some people, for a variety of reasons, have little or no iron stored in their bodies. If you are one of these people, you can stay healthy if you balance the iron you lose with iron absorbed from your diet. If you lose more iron than you are able to absorb, you may become anemic.
There are three general causes for a lack of iron reserves. The first is that there may not be enough iron in your diet to replace the amount that is lost each day. This problem occurs mainly in young children and in people who, for one of several reasons, are living on restricted diets.
The second major reason for iron deficiency is that the digestive system is unable to absorb iron, even though there may be enough of the right forms of it in the diet. This occurs most often because part of the stomach has been removed surgically .


The third reason for iron deficiency is that the iron reserves may become depleted through excessive loss of blood. This is the most common cause. If the blood loss is caused by a temporary problem, reserves of iron will rebuild in time. Many women have heavy menstrual periods, which can gradually deplete their iron reserves. In other cases, blood loss may occur in the intestinal tract. This type of blood loss, in sufficient quantity, can produce bloody or black stools. But, if it is limited in quantity, there may be no sign of the bleeding. Some of the common causes of intestinal blood loss are gastritis stomach ulcer duodenal ulcer cancer of the stomach cancer of the large intestine and hemorrhoids .
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms are those characteristic of most forms of anemia. You may be weak, pale, tired, faint and/or breathless. You may also have palpitations or an increased awareness of your heartbeat that occurs when your heart tries to compensate for the anemia by pumping blood faster than is normal.
What should be done?
If you have anemia, see your physician. Do not attempt to treat the condition yourself. You may prevent your physician from diagnosing a serious but treatable disease that has produced the anemia. The doctor diagnoses anemia by taking a blood sample and having it tested. If the cause of the anemia is not obvious, further tests may be required. These may include measurements of the blood iron level, an examination of your bone marrow, and a look for blood in a bowel-movement sample. If bleeding is detected, other tests, such as an upper gastro-intestinal( GJ) series, a barium enema, or endoscopy may be needed.
What is the treatment?
Iron deficiency anemia must be treated by dealing with the underlying disorder. It is very important that any correctable cause be appropriately treated. Usually the iron deficiency itself can be treated with iron tablets. These can cause indigestion or bowel upsets, but this should not happen if you take the tablets right after you eat and do not take more than your physician has prescribed. If you continue to have difficulty with the tablets, your physician may give you iron by injecting it into a vein, or into a muscle. Ordinarily the anemia disappears after several weeks of treatment. If the anemia is severe, or if it must be corrected fairly quickly, your physician can arrange for a blood transfusion.

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