Anaemia results from lowering the level of haemoglobin in the RBCs (Red Blood Cells). It is the protein in the RBCs playing an integral role in carrying the oxygen to various body tissues. Being the most common anaemia type it occurs when the body is unable to produce sufficed mineral iron. Iron is significant for producing haemoglobin.
When the iron level is lacked, the body will naturally lack from enough oxygen level it requires. As the condition is quite common, some people can’t realise that are suffering from iron-deficiency anaemia. You may experience its symptoms several years after being acquired.
Women with childbearing age experience iron-deficiency anaemia widely because of the loss of a high amount of blood resulting from pregnancy and heavy menstruation. Even sometimes, a few intestinal diseases or poor diet can affect the absorption level of iron which is why it will result in iron-deficiency anaemia.
It is usually treated by making certain changes to diet and prescribing the intake of iron supplements.
Symptoms of Iron Deficiency Anaemia
At first, the iron-deficiency anaemia will be mild and even cannot be noticed at all. As per (AST) American Society of Haematology, a high percentage of people cannot get to know that they have anaemia until they undergo Full body private health check-up along with routine blood test.
The symptoms that you are going to experience during moderate to severe iron deficiency Anaemia are given below:
- Brittle nails
- Irregular or fast heartbeat
- Cold feet and hands
- Tongue soreness or swelling
- Crawling or tingling feeling in the legs
- Unusual cravings to non-food items
- Breathing shortness
- Pale skin
Causes of Iron Deficiency Anaemia
As per ASH, the deficit in the level of iron in the blood is the most usual reason for anaemia. Some of the potential causes are discussed below for your references:
Inadequate intake of iron
Consumption of low amount of iron for some time can cause a lowering of its level in the body. Certain foods like green leafy vegetables, eggs and meat are highly rich in iron. As it is an important nutrient for fast growth and development, young infants and pregnant women should include much iron-loaded foods in their diet chart.
Blood loss because of menstruation or pregnancy
Excess blood loss during menstruation or childbirth can result in a deficiency of the level of iron in the body of the childbearing-aged women.
Several medical complexities also result in internal bleeding lead to iron-deficiency anaemia. It includes colon cancer, polyps in intestines or colon and ulcer in the stomach. Intake of pain relievers regularly can also cause internal stomach bleeding.
Unable to absorb iron
Many surgeries or disorders can also affect the intestine leads to the interference of low iron absorption in the body. Moreover, if you consume much iron intestinal surgery or celiac disease like gastric bypass will limit the iron absorption in the body.
If there is any woman with endometriosis, high amount of blood loss is so common but in a secret manner. It is so; because it cannot get noticed and gets hid in the pelvic or abdominal area.
Anaemia is a usual medical condition which can affect both women and men regardless of the age and ethnic group. Certain people with more susceptibility to iron-deficiency Anaemia are mentioned below:
- Vegetarians who never find the substitute of meat with any iron-fortified foods
- Pregnant women
- Childbearing-aged women
- People who follow a poor diet chart
- Persons who frequently donate blood
- Children and infants with a growth spurt or who have born prematurely
If you are highly concerned about iron deficiency anaemia, then consult with your doctor immediately so that essential dietary changes or blood test can help you!
The ways it’s diagnosed
Anaemia can be diagnosed by blood tests. It comprises of the following:
CBC (Complete Blood Count) Test
It is very first test suggested by the doctor. It helps in measuring every componential amount in the blood like;
- White Blood Cells (WBCs)
- Red Blood Cells (RBCs)
It offers detailed information regarding the blood that helps in diagnosing iron-deficiency anaemia. It includes:
- RBCs’ sizes
- The level of haemoglobin
- The level of haemocrit, blood volume percentage for building up RBCs
Normally, haemocrit must be 38.8-50 in men whereas 34.9-44.5 in women. Haemoglobin range will be 13.5-17.5 gm/dL in men on the other hand, 12.0-15.5 gm/dL in women. During iron-deficiency anaemia both of these levels will be quite low along with reduced sizes of RBCs.
CBC is also regarded as the regular physical exam part and it often useful in determining the overall health condition of the person. It is also performed before performing any surgery.
Apart from CBC, other blood tests can also help in determining the severity of Anaemia so that proper treatment can be offered on time. These are mainly done by analysing blood sample under a microscope slide. It reveals information such as;
- TIBC (Total Iron-Binding Capacity)
- Ferritin levels
- Level of iron in the blood
- The colour and size of RBCs
Ferritin is a type of protein useful for storing iron in the body. Its low level s the clear indication there is a low level of iron too. By this test, the amount of iron carrying transferring (iron-supported protein) can be checked.
Tests for Internal Bleeding
If there is any chance of internal bleeding that causes anaemia, you may have to perform further tests. The faecal occult test is one such which helps in indicating the intestinal bleeding via traces of blood in the stools. Endoscopy may be suggested too for checking the gastrointestinal tract by using a small camera.
EGD test (upper endoscopy) enables the doctor to check the lining of the small intestine, stomach and oesophagus. On the other hand, colonoscopy (lower endoscopy) evaluates the large intestine by the doctor. These are all reliable in gastrointestinal bleeding.
Iron-deficit Anaemia in women
In contrary to men, women are much more prone to experience iron-deficiency Anaemia just because of uterine fibroids, menstrual bleeding and pregnancy.
When a woman bleeds heavily than a typical woman bleeds at the time of menstruation, it is referred to as the heave menstrual bleeding. As per the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention Trusted Source, basically, a woman will lose 2-3 tablespoons of blood in the course of 4-5 days of the menstrual cycle.
Extreme menstrual bleeding for more than 7 days can result in losing twice blood than the normal losing rate. In accordance with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, mostly childbearing-aged women are highly susceptible to iron-deficiency Anaemia. It is so; because they need higher amount of blood for offering optimal support of baby growth in the foetus.
At the time of women’s period, the doctor can perform the pelvic ultrasound to locate the exact source of bleeding like fibroids. Much similar to iron-deficiency anaemia, also uterine fibroids don’t show any symptoms.
Sometimes, the development of muscular tumours in the uterus can also emerge iron-deficiency anaemia. But it is not always necessary that the tumours should be cancerous.
Associated health conditions of Iron-deficit Anaemia
Widely, iron deficiency anaemia is mild and doesn’t show associated medical issues. It is the condition which can be fixed easily. But if it is left untreated for a long period of time, it will result in other medical complexities as well. It includes;
Irregular or rapid heartbeat
Once you are identified as anaemic, the heart will pump more blood due to the alleviated amount of oxygen which will result in irregular heartbeat. If it gets severe, it can end up with an enlarged heart or heart failure as well.
Complications in pregnancy
If you are already pregnant and have a low level of iron in the blood, the pregnancy becomes much riskier for you! You may deliver a premature child with relatively lower body weight. A majority of the pregnant women intake iron supplements as an integral part of their prenatal care so that they can deliver a healthy baby.
Late growth rate in children and infants
The children and infants who are adversely suffering from iron deficiency will experience late physical growth and development. Moreover, they will be highly susceptible to infections at the same time.
Iron tablets or supplements incorporate in restoring the deficit level of iron in the body. It is best if the iron tablets can be consumed on an empty stomach as it helps them to function in a much better way for their absorption.
In case, it leads to an upset stomach then you are recommended to take the tablet with the meals. Supplements should be taken for several months and it may cause black faeces or constipation.
Diet with the inclusion of foods for preventing or treating the iron deficiency is as mentioned:
- Iron-rich cereals
- Dried fruits
- Dark green leafy vegetables
- Red meat
Moreover, vitamin C is the most useful nutrient that assists the body to absorb iron from foods. When you are prescribed to take iron tablets, you may be suggested to take Vitamin C tablets too by the doctor. Sometimes, other sources of Vitamin C also work efficiently such as citrus fruit or orange juice.
How to treat the underlying cause of Anaemia resulting in bleeding
If deficiency results from excessive non-stop bleeding then, any iron supplement can’t help. The women with heavy periods may be prescribed with birth control pills by the doctor. It will alleviate the amount of menstrual bleeding in them in each cycle. If the case is too severe, blood transfusion is the only way for replacing blood and iron loss instantly and on an urgent basis.
When there is an inadequacy of iron in the blood, it can be prevented with the help of proper diet rich in with Vitamin C and iron. Mothers must feed their babies any iron-rich infant formula or breast milk.
Foods rich in iron are;
- Iron-rich instant dry cereals
- Sea-foods like oysters, shrimp, sardines and clams
- Dried fruits and raisins
- Leafy greens like spinach
- Squash and pumpkin seeds
- Meat like beef, chicken, pork and lamb
Foods loaded with Vitamin C are;
- Leafy greens
- Brussels sprouts
- Green and red bell peppers
- Fruits like mangoes, melons, pineapples, papayas, guavas, kiwis, strawberries, grapefruits and oranges
Treating and diagnosing the iron-deficiency Anaemia on your own can cause severe health effect due to the increase of the iron excessively in the blood. Excessive high level of iron in the blood can lead to constipation and liver damage.
In case you are suffering from iron-deficiency Anaemia, it is always advisable to consult with the doctor. You will be advised to perform a health check by private GP to check the level of iron in the blood.