Iron deficiency anemia is a condition in which blood lacks adequate healthy red blood cells. This occurs when your body doesn’t have enough iron to produce hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the part of the red blood cells that carry oxygenated blood throughout your body. If you aren’t consuming enough iron, or if you’re losing too much iron, your body can’t produce enough hemoglobin and iron deficiency anemia will develop.
Causes and Symptoms
Causes of iron deficiency anemia include blood loss, lack of iron in your diet, inability to absorb iron, and pregnancy.
Initially, iron deficiency anemia can be so mild that it goes unnoticed. As your body becomes more deficient in iron and anemic, the signs and symptoms worsen. Signs and symptoms may include:
- Extreme fatigue
- Pale skin
- Chest pain
- Fast heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Cold hands and feet
- Inflammation or soreness of your tongue
- Brittle nails
- Unusual cravings for non-nutritive substances
- Poor appetite
If you develop signs and symptoms that suggest iron deficiency anemia, speak with your doctor. Iron deficiency anemia isn’t something to self-diagnose or treat.
To diagnose iron deficiency anemia, your doctor may order blood tests to check your hematocrit, hemoglobin, and ferritin levels. Procedures such as upper endoscopy and colonoscopy may be ordered to further evaluate the cause of your anemia.
Once diagnosed, your doctor may recommend that you take iron supplements or you may need to be given iron intravenously. You and your doctor will discuss the best treatment options for your condition.