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Today in Health & Wellness

Iron Deficiency

Risk Factors
Commonly Prescribed Drugs
Treatment and Management
Doctors to Consult

Common Name/Other Name: Sideropenia, Hypoferremia, Iron deficiency anemia

Iron is one of the vital minerals needed by the body because of its various functions. The body needs iron to make hemoglobin, which carries oxygen throughout the body. Iron deficiency may lead to fewer production of red blood cell which may cause fatigue, weakness and decreased immunity. The heart has to work harder to pump blood to make up for low amount of oxygen and this might lead to irregular heartbeat or worse, heart failure. For pregnant women, iron deficiency can cause premature birth or low-birth weight for newborns. It will also delay growth and development of infants and children.

We often mistake fatigue and weakness as just a sign of exhaustion which is why iron deficiency is often undetected. It is the most common cause of anemia that can be detected through blood tests. Iron deficiency is curable simply by the right diet and iron supplements.

  • Fatigue, weakness
  • Dizziness, headache
  • Paleness or pallor
  • Loss of focus
  • Impaired immune function
  • Shortness of breath
  • Irregular heart beat
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (e.g. Chron's disease, ulcerative colitis)
  • Appetite craving for non-nutritive substance like clay, chalk, soil, paper (known as pica) and ice (pica form called pagophagia)
  • Brittle or grooved nails
  • Hair loss
  • Uncontrollable or unwanted sensations that affects the legs (Restless leg syndrome)
Risk Factors
  • Anemia
  • Inadequate intake of nutrients or malabsorption
  • Chronic bleeding (e.g. excessive menstrual bleeding in women, GI bleeding)
  • Vegetarians (people who do not eat meat which is a rich source of iron)
  • Frequent blood donors (resulting in low blood count)
Commonly Prescribed Drugs

Iron supplements (ferrous salts) help increase RBC or hemoglobin in the blood.

  • Side effects: Black stool, constipation, stomach irritation, temporary staining on teeth.
  • Drug interactions: Certain antibiotics, tetracycline, thyroid replacement drugs, levodopa, methyldopa, bisphosphonates.

Vitamins such as vitamin A, B12, C and folic acid helps the body absorb iron better.

Treatment and Management
  • Eat iron-rich food (e.g. red meat, poultry, leafy vegetables, fortified bread and cereals)
  • Avoid drinking coffee and eating fiber containing foods while taking iron supplements because it prevents iron absorption in the body.
  • Get blood tests regularly for both high and low iron while taking iron supplements, it may help detect if anemia or other health complications is present.
Home Remedies
Doctors to Consult
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