Iron deficiency anemia is one of the most common mineral deficiencies in the world.
Fortunately, iron deficiency anemia is easy to spot, easy to test, and easy to target with various treatments.
Today, we’re explaining 5 things you need to know about iron deficiency anemia, including signs, symptoms, and causes of iron deficiency.
1) Symptoms of Iron Deficiency
People with iron deficiency anemia may have a range of minor to moderate symptoms.
Common symptoms of iron deficiency anemia include:
- Cold hands, feet, fingers, and toes
- Pale skin
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Mental fog
If you have a more serious case of iron deficiency anemia, then you may experience similar symptoms to general anemia, including excessive tiredness, shortness of breath, and chest pain.
Some people have no symptoms of iron deficiency anemia whatsoever. They feel fine, yet blood tests show they have chronically low levels of iron.
2) Causes of Iron Deficiency
The most common causes of iron deficiency anemia include blood loss and problems absorbing iron.
If you have a condition that causes excessive bleeding, for example, then you may have a higher risk of iron deficiency anemia.
The most common causes of iron deficiency anemia include:
- Bleeding in your gastrointestinal tract (which can be caused by inflammatory bowel disease, colon cancer, celiac disease, ulcers, or intense athletic activity)
- Heavy menstrual periods
- Kidney disease (if you have kidney disease, then your body doesn’t make enough erythropoietin, a crucial compound in red blood cells)
- Traumatic injuries or surgeries
- Frequent use of NSAIDs (like ibuprofen) that could cause bleeding in your GI tract
- Rare genetic conditions that make it hard to stop bleeding
- Other conditions that block the absorption of iron
As we’ll explain below, some people also have iron deficiency because their bodies can’t absorb enough iron.
3) Why Iron Supplements May Not Be Enough: You May Have Trouble Absorbing Iron
Many people think they can solve iron deficiency anemia simply by taking an iron supplement or multivitamin. That’s not true.
In fact, many people with iron deficiency anemia get more than enough iron in their diet – yet they struggle to absorb iron for various reasons.
Some of the reasons you may have trouble absorbing iron include:
- Rare genetic conditions that block your intestines from absorbing iron
- Other genetic conditions that make it difficult to stop bleeding
- Intestinal and digestive conditions like celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis
- Weight loss surgery
- Other surgeries on your stomach and intestines
- Internal bleeding that must be fixed with surgery
Some intense athletes also struggle to absorb iron. Endurance sports, for example, can cause athletes to lose iron through their digestive tract and via the breakdown of red blood cells.
4) Treatment for Iron Deficiency
A medical professional can build a custom treatment plan for your iron deficiency anemia.
By addressing the cause of blood loss or the issues with iron absorption, you may be able to prevent iron deficiency anemia by targeting the root of the condition.
Common ways to prevent iron deficiency anemia include:
- Get more sources of iron in your diet, including beans, dried fruit, eggs, salmon, tofu, dark green leafy vegetables, or bread and grains fortified with iron
- Eat vitamin-C rich foods, including fruits and vegetables, that help your body absorb iron
- Take iron supplements
- Take intravenous iron (it may only take a few sessions to address low iron levels)
- Take medicine to promote red blood cell production (like erythropoiesis stimulating agents for kidney disease)
- Get a blood transfusion
Obviously, these treatments range from basic at-home solutions to more medically-advanced treatments. By talking to a doctor, you can determine the right treatment for your iron deficiency.
5) When to See a Doctor
Doctors diagnose iron deficiency anemia using a blood test.
A blood test checks your complete blood count (CBC), hemoglobin, blood iron, and ferritin levels.
Doctors can also determine the root cause of your iron deficiency – like surgery or a genetic condition.
If you are concerned about your health and wellness, visit a doctor to determine if your symptoms are linked to iron deficiency.
Final Word: Take a Science Nutrition Lab Blood Test to Spot Iron Deficiency Before Symptoms Appear
A Science Nutrition Lab at-home blood test checks iron levels in a different way than a traditional blood test:
- You take a blood test at any local clinic in your area
- Results are shipped to our lab
- Results are compared to an optimal range based on your age and demographic data (not a random sample of people who recently used the lab, as is the case with ordinary blood tests)
- Jason Jumper reviews your results and determines the best way to target iron deficiency and other conditions, including supplements to take and lifestyle changes to implement
With a few simple steps, you can identify iron deficiency in your blood long before major symptoms appear.