Anemia is a general term for a condition in which the body doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells. Iron deficiency anemia occurs when the body does not have sufficient iron levels and cannot produce adequate amounts of hemoglobin, which is required for red blood cells to carry oxygen.
In the beginning, iron deficiency anemia is often subtle enough that it does not cause symptoms. Over time, as anemia worsens, symptoms may begin to intensity and become noticeable.
What causes iron deficiency anemia?
Iron deficiency anemia can be due to a lack of iron in the diet, and it is more common during pregnancy, when women have a higher need for iron. Certain conditions, such as celiac disease, can affect the body’s ability to absorb iron, leading to anemia. Blood loss is another cause of iron deficiency anemia, so women with particularly heavy periods can be at risk. Sometimes, an underlying health condition can cause bleeding and lead to iron deficiency anemia. For example, a hiatal hernia, peptic ulcer, or colon cancer could lead to anemia. Some people experience bleeding and develop iron deficiency anemia due to overuse of pain relievers like aspirin.
Is iron deficiency anemia dangerous?
Mild cases of iron deficiency anemia typically do not lead to severe complications, but if untreated, anemia can cause serious health problems, such as irregular heartbeat, enlarged heart, or heart failure. Children who are deficient in iron can experience growth problems, and pregnant women with iron deficiency anemia are at risk of premature birth or giving birth to babies with low birth weight.
How is iron deficiency anemia treated?
Iron deficiency anemia can be treated with iron supplements, which may be more effective when taken with vitamin C. If supplements do not correct the condition, you may require treatment for underlying health issues, such as medications for a peptic ulcer, contraceptives to reduce blood flow during periods, or surgery to remove tumors.
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