Iron deficiency anemia is a common medical problem especially among children and women. But what is this illness and what are its consequences? Read on.
Iron Deficiency Anemia
Iron deficiency anemia is a medical condition wherein the red blood cells in the blood are lower than normal due to a lack of iron. There are many causes of iron deficiency which include chronic diseases, age and viral infections. This is the most common type of anemia. When the body lacks iron, it cannot produce a type of protein called hemoglobin, which is responsible for carrying oxygen to the tissues. Hemoglobin is responsible for the red color of blood. If there is a lack of iron, hemoglobin is not produced adequately and the body tissues may suffer from lack of oxygen. Thus with iron deficiency anemia, your body cannot function effectively to continue to its usual daily processes.
In reproductiveage women, the usual cause of iron deficiency anemia is iron loss in the blood through menstruation or childbearing. However in other people as well as in some women, iron deficiency anemia may be caused by a lack or an inadequacy of iron in the diet. It can also be caused by intestinal infections and other disease processes.
Iron deficiency can result when one consumes food which is low in iron over a period of time. This is why one should consume iron rich foods every now and then. Examples of iron rich foods include meats, eggs, fruits and green vegetables. Children may need more iron in their diet more than adults.
Other conditions which may cause iron deficiency anemia include conditions that cause internal bleeding such as stomach ulcers, polyps in the colon or intestines, or use of pain relievers such as aspirin. Surgeries in the gut or inflammatory bowel disease may also give rise to iron deficiency anemia. Those who are at high risk include women of reproductive age, pregnant women, malnourished persons, frequent blood donors, children and infants, and vegetarians who do not eat meat or vegetables which are rich in iron.
Iron deficiency anemia may manifest with symptoms such as weakness, general fatigue, pallor, shortness of breath, dizziness, strange carvings for dirt or ice or clay, a tingling sensation in the legs, swelling or sore tongue, coolness of extremities, brittle nails, headaches or fast/ irregular heartbeat. The doctor may do some diagnostic tests to make a diagnosis of iron deficiency anemia, such as complete blood count, ferritin levels, red blood cell morphology, total iron binding capacity test and tests for internal bleeding such as fecal occult test or pelvic ultrasound.
If untreated, iron deficiency anemia may have complications such as heart problems, premature birth in pregnancy, and delayed growth in children and infants. This is why iron deficiency anemia needs to be treated as soon as possible, with iron supplements or a diet rich in red meat, dark leafy vegetables, dried fruits and nuts, and iron-fortified cereals.
Iron Deficiency Anemia and Stroke
Recently, a study has found out that iron deficiency may increase the risk for stroke by making the blood stickier. The findings of this study were published in the journal PLOS ONE. Researchers from the at Imperial College London studied a group of people with a rare disease called hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT) that often leads to enlarged blood vessels in the lungs, similar to varicose veins. They found out that platelets became stickier in the blood of people with iron deficiency anemia. They found out that those patients with iron deficiency were more likely to have a stroke. Thus, to prevent stroke among high risk people, iron deficiency anemia should be treated as well.
You can learn more about iron deficiency anemia by reading our other articles on this site.