What causes
Iron deficiency?

Skincare and vitamins

Iron deficiency, a widespread ailment, results from insufficient iron for hemoglobin production, a crucial protein in red blood cells responsible for oxygen transport throughout the body. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognizes it as a frequently overlooked and inadequately addressed condition.

Diagnosing iron deficiency poses a challenge due to the generic nature of its symptoms, which mimic other health issues. Symptoms like fatigue, weakness, and anemia are attributed to various causes, complicating the identification of iron deficiency. Many affected individuals delay or avoid seeking medical advice, either underestimating their symptoms’ severity or unaware of iron deficiency’s role. Despite diagnosis, effective treatment is not always pursued. This article aims to illuminate the subject of iron-deficient anemia, detailing its essence, causative factors, preventative measures, and therapeutic approaches.

Understanding Iron-deficient Anemia

This condition manifests when the body lacks sufficient iron to generate ample healthy red blood cells. Symptoms of iron-deficient anemia can range in severity but commonly include:

  • Fatigue
  • Pale skin
  • Breathlessness
  • Headaches
  • Hair loss (a frequent complaint)
  • Low mood
  • Dizziness and fragile nails

Primary Causes of Iron-deficient Anemia

Several factors contribute to this form of anemia, notably:

  • Blood Loss: Since blood harbors iron, its loss can precipitate iron deficiency anemia. Heavy menstrual bleeding, peptic ulcers, and colon cancer are typical sources of blood loss.
  • Inadequate Diet: Iron-rich foods like meats, fish, legumes, leafy greens, and iron-enriched cereals are essential. A diet lacking these items may increase the risk of anemia.
  • Iron Absorption Challenges: The small intestine absorbs dietary iron. Conditions like celiac or Crohn’s disease can impair this process.
  • Pregnancy: Pregnant individuals require additional iron for fetal development. Insufficient iron intake during pregnancy can lead to anemia.

Iron-deficiency Anemia Treatment Strategies

Iron-deficient anemia is primarily addressed through diet and supplementation:

  • Diet: Consuming foods rich in iron, such as red meat, dark greens, dried fruits, nuts, and fortified cereals, can alleviate or prevent anemia. Vitamin C enhances iron absorption, making citrus fruits and tomatoes beneficial.
    • Iron Supplements: These supplements boost the body’s iron levels. Although best taken on an empty stomach, they may be consumed with food to mitigate stomach upset. Side effects include constipation or blackened stools. Additional interventions might be necessary, including:
    • Addressing underlying bleeding causes: Managing conditions that cause heavy bleeding can improve iron levels.
    • Blood transfusions or intravenous iron: Severe anemia cases might require these measures for rapid iron and blood replenishment.

Comparing Intravenous and Oral Iron Supplementation

While both intravenous (IV) and oral supplements are effective, IV iron offers advantages, including:

  • Efficient Absorption: Direct bloodstream administration facilitates rapid iron assimilation, offering swift symptom relief. IV iron can normalize blood indices and alleviate symptoms within weeks, unlike oral supplements, which may take months.
  • Fewer Side Effects: IV supplementation lacks the gastrointestinal side effects common to oral iron, such as nausea and constipation.
  • Particular Population Suitability: It’s especially beneficial for individuals with absorption issues or chronic kidney disease.
  • Convenience: IV iron suits those who find pills challenging or have adherence issues with oral therapy.

IV iron is reserved for severe deficiency cases, necessitating blood tests for eligibility. At Effect Doctors, we offer personalized consultations and treatments, tailored to individual needs, ensuring comprehensive care and monitoring throughout the treatment journey.