Iron Deficiency: A Leading Cause of Various Types of Anemia
Anemia is a condition that affects many people in the United States. Women, children, and people with certain diseases are at a greater risk of the condition. Anemia occurs when the body has a low level of healthy red blood cells. Usually, there is also a problem with the hemoglobin, a substance that gives red blood cells their color and transports oxygen in the blood.
Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anemia. Iron is a mineral found in each red blood cell. It is depleted during normal body functions and needs to be continuously replenished through foods or dietary supplements. Adult men and women require a daily intake of 17–20 mg of iron per day. A daily intake that is lower places them at risk of anemia.
Types of Anemia
Three common types of anemia are hypochronic anemia, pernicious anemia, and microcytic anemia. They can be mild or severe, temporary or long term.
Hypochronic anemia occurs when there is not enough hemoglobin, or an abnormality in the hemoglobin, in a person’s red blood cells. This results in paler-looking cells. This type of anemia is commonly caused by iron deficiency and can lead to what is called iron deficiency anemia. But it can also be caused by hemoglobin E disorder, lead toxicity, thalassemia, or a chronic disease. Tiredness, weakness, fatigue, loss of stamina, dizziness, and pale skin are common symptoms of this condition.
The body needs sufficient B-12 vitamins to make enough healthy red blood cells. Pernicious anemia is a rare type of anemia that occurs when the body is unable to absorb this vitamin, and make enough healthy red blood cells. Symptoms include weakness, chest pain, headaches, and weight loss. This type of anemia can be treated with supplements or B-12 injections.
Microcytic anemia is a type of blood condition where there is a low level of red blood cells. The cells that are present are smaller than normal. This can happen due to health conditions that affect hemoglobin. When the cell abnormalities begin to affect the tissues, symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, and pale skin may occur. Treating underlying health conditions can correct this type of anemia. You may also need iron and vitamin C supplements to boost hemoglobin.
Common Causes of Anemia
- Persistent blood loss
- Iron deficiency (also known as iron deficiency anemia)
- Insufficient production on red blood cells
- Abnormalities in red blood cells or hemoglobin
- Deficiency in vitamins such as folate and vitamin B-12
- Chronic diseases such as HIV/AIDS, kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis, or bone marrow diseases
- Certain medication, e.g., non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSADs)
- Sickle cell disease (causes sickle cell anemia)
Treating and Preventing Anemia with Iron Supplements
The body can store iron for months, but certain conditions can cause iron levels to get chronically low and cause anemia. Iron gets depleted due to blood loss through menstruation, pregnancy and delivery, and the use of some intrauterine devices. Gastrointestinal blood loss is often responsible for reduced iron levels in men and post-menopausal women.
Being able to spot the symptoms can help you seek treatment and take other preventive steps to stay healthy. You can combat iron loss by eating foods rich in iron, such as lean beef, veal, green leafy vegetables, potatoes, and seafood. It is also important to take sufficient vitamin C through foods or supplements to help with iron absorption.
People who do not get the daily amount of iron from their diet have the option of taking iron supplements to improve the quality of red blood cells. In severe cases, blood transfusion may be necessary to treat anemia. You can still continue taking iron supplements to maintain a healthy level of red blood cells.