What You Should Know About Iron Deficiency Anaemia

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Anaemia results from lowering the level of haemoglobin in the RBCs (Red Blood Cells). It is the protein in the RBCs that plays an integral role in carrying oxygen to various body tissues. Being the most common anaemia type it occurs when the body is unable to produce sufficient mineral iron. Iron is significant for producing haemoglobin.

When the iron level is lacking, the body will naturally lack the 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 of 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 know that they have anaemia until they undergo Full body private health check-ups along with routine blood tests.

The symptoms that you are going to experience during moderate to severe iron deficiency Anaemia are given below:

  • Headaches
  • Brittle nails
  • Irregular or fast heartbeat
  • Cold feet and hands
  • Tongue soreness or swelling
  • Crawling or tingling feeling in the legs
  • Unusual cravings for non-food items
  • Dizziness
  • Breathing shortness
  • Pale skin
  • Weakness

Causes of Iron Deficiency Anaemia

As per ASH, the deficit in the level of iron in the blood is the most common reason for anaemia. Some of the potential causes are discussed below for your reference:

Inadequate intake of iron  

Consumption of a 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 many 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 childbearing-aged women.

Internal bleeding

Several medical complexities also result in internal bleeding leading to iron-deficiency anaemia. It includes colon cancer, polyps in the intestines or colon and ulcers 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 leading 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, a high amount of blood loss is so common but in a secret manner. It is so; because it cannot get noticed and gets hidden in the pelvic or abdominal area.

Risk factors

Anaemia is a usual medical condition which can affect both women and men regardless of age and ethnic group. Certain people with more susceptibility to iron-deficiency Anaemia are mentioned below:

  • Vegetarians who never find a substitute for 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 been born prematurely

If you are highly concerned about iron deficiency anaemia, consult with your doctor immediately so that essential dietary changes or blood tests can help you. Visit here for a private blood test in London to book an appointment now.

The ways it’s diagnosed

Anaemia can be diagnosed by blood tests. It comprises of the following:

CBC (Complete Blood Count) Test

It is the very first test suggested by the doctor. It helps in measuring every componential amount in the blood like;

  • Platelets
  • Haematocrit
  • Haemoglobin
  • 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 haematocrit, blood volume percentage for building up RBCs

Normally, haematocrit must be 38.8-50 in men whereas 34.9-44.5 in women. The 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 a regular physical exam part and it is often useful in determining the overall health condition of the person. It is also performed before performing any surgery.

Other tests

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 samples 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 is a 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 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 more heavily than a typical woman bleeds at the time of menstruation, it is referred to as heavy menstrual bleeding. As per the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention Trusted Source, a woman will lose 2-3 tablespoons of blood in 4-5 days of the menstrual cycle.

Extreme menstrual bleeding for more than 7 days can result in a loss of twice blood the normal loss rate. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, most childbearing-aged women are highly susceptible to iron deficiency anaemia. It is so; because they need a higher amount of blood to offer optimal support of baby growth in the foetus.

At the time of a woman’s period, the doctor can perform a 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 cause 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 a condition which can be fixed easily. But if it is left untreated for a long period, 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 a relatively lower body weight. A majority of 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.

Treatment options

Iron supplements

Iron tablets or supplements are incorporated to restore 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.


A diet with the inclusion of foods for preventing or treating iron deficiency is as mentioned:

  • Iron-rich cereals
  • Nuts
  • 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. Women with heavy periods may be prescribed 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 to replace blood and iron loss instantly and on an urgent basis.


When iron is inadequate in the blood, it can be prevented with the help of a proper diet rich in 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
  • Seafoods like oysters, shrimp, sardines and clams
  • Eggs
  • Dried fruits and raisins
  • Leafy greens like spinach
  • Squash and pumpkin seeds
  • Beans
  • Meat like beef, chicken, pork and lamb

Foods loaded with Vitamin C are;

  • Leafy greens
  • Tomatoes
  • Cauliflowers
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Green and red bell peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Fruits like mangoes, melons, pineapples, papayas, guavas, kiwis, strawberries, grapefruits and oranges

Treating and diagnosing deficiency anaemia on your own can cause severe health effects due to the increase of iron excessively in the blood. Excessively high levels of iron in the blood can lead to constipation and liver damage.

In case you are suffering from iron deficiency anemia, it is always advisable to consult with a doctor. You will be advised to perform a health check in London by a private GP to check the level of iron in your blood.

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