Anemia due to too little iron

Anemia due to too little iron is common and can make you feel tired and powerless. The most common cause of anemia is that you have lost blood. For example, it can be during menstruation or if you have a stomach or intestinal disease that causes bleeding. It may also be because you cannot absorb iron from the food.

In this text you can read about the most common symptoms of anemia due to too little iron. You can also read more about when to seek care and different treatments. Anemia can also be because you have too little B12. You may also have anemia for other reasons.

symptoms

The purpose of the red blood cells is to transport oxygen from the breathing air to all parts of the body. Oxygen is needed for most of the body’s functions, such as blood formation, metabolism and energy production. This means that a lack of red blood cells can cause many different types of symptoms.  

Common symptoms of anemia are you

  • feeling tired and powerless
  • have trouble concentrating
  • feel dizzy
  • being breathed easier than before
  • gets palpitations
  • has headaches
  • gets ear ache.

The amount of symptoms you get from anemia depends on how severe the anemia is but also varies from person to person. In some cases, when the anemia increases slowly, the body may adapt. Then you only get mild discomfort even though the anemia can be severe.

When should I seek care?

Seek care at a health care center if you suspect you have anemia. There you can get a referral to a doctor who specializes in, for example, blood disorders. 

What can I do for myself?

You get iron in the food you eat. For most people, eating enough is enough to get enough iron. If you know that you have had low iron levels in the past, you should eat foods that contain extra iron.

There is a lot of iron in meat, fish, eggs, intestinal foods and foods that are rich in blood, such as blood pudding. There is also iron in whole grain products, potatoes, spinach, bananas and peaches.

Drinking tea, coffee and milk makes it harder for the body to absorb iron. However, fruits, vegetables and root vegetables make it easier for the body to absorb iron from food.

Anemia due to too little iron is treated with drugs

If you have anemia due to too little iron, iron from the food is not enough. Then you need treatment with medicines. Iron supplements are not effective in anemia because they do not contain enough iron. 

Investigation

At the health center, the doctor does a body examination. You can tell if you have had any previous illnesses, how you usually eat and if you take any medicines. The doctor also asks if there are any hereditary diseases in your family. Then you have a blood test to check how much hemoglobin you have in your blood. It is often shortened to Hb. Sometimes it is also called blood value.

You who have menstruation can tell you how often you have menstruation, how much you bleed and whether you have intermediate bleeding.

You can also tell if you have seen blood in your poop and if you have had other stomach and intestinal problems. 

Samples are taken to find out what type of anemia you have

Once your blood count is examined and your doctor knows you have anemia, other blood tests are taken to find out what type of anemia you have. For example, there may be blood tests that show how much iron you have in your body.

You can submit stool samples

If you have anemia due to too little iron, and do not have menstruation, it is important to find an explanation for the iron deficiency. Bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract is a common cause of anemia due to too little iron. It is therefore common to pass a stool test to see if you have blood in the poop. Then the rectum is also examined.

Colonoscopy and gastroscopy

Sometimes an examination of the large intestine with a colonoscope and an examination of the stomach with a gastroscope are also done.

At a colonoscopy , a long, flexible instrument is inserted into the large intestine via the rectum. At the top of the instrument is a camera that transfers images of the large intestine to a monitor.

In a gastroscopy , the stomach is examined. Then a long, flexible instrument is inserted into the stomach through the mouth and throat. The gastroscope works in the same way as the colonoscope.

Treatment

It is important that you get treatment quickly if you have anemia due to too little iron. The iron you get from the food is not enough. Therefore, the anemia is treated with drugs. In the first place you get iron tablets, if you do not tolerate them you can get drips or syringes containing iron.

If you have very low blood levels and major problems, you can get blood transfusion. Then new blood is added to the body. You always get blood transfusions if the anemia affects the heart or blood circulation.

The iron tablets can cause stomach upset

It is common to have some side effects of iron tablets. For example, it may be nausea, constipation or diarrhea. To avoid the side effects, you can, at first, take the tablets after a meal. If things are going well, try taking them on an empty stomach, as more iron will then be absorbed into the body.

Talk to your doctor if you get any side effects of the iron tablets. Then you can get iron syringes instead. It is often not a good alternative to reduce the dose, as the dose can then be so low that it does not produce any effect.

Do not take more iron tablets than your doctor has prescribed

Iron tablets should always be taken with half a glass of liquid, as iron can irritate the esophagus. Never take more tablets than your doctor has prescribed. Taking too high a dose may be dangerous.

Keep the tablets away from children

Medicines containing iron can cause poisoning in children. It is therefore important to store the tablets in a place where children do not reach them.

Diseases that cause anemia are treated

The red blood cells contain a lot of iron. This means that iron deficiency and often anemia occur in bleeding disorders. This applies, for example, ulcers, certain chronic bowel diseases and cancer of the stomach or intestine. You will then receive treatment for the disease that causes anemia and treatment with iron for iron deficiency. The treatment with iron is ongoing until the blood level is back to the level you had before and then a few more months, to replenish iron stores. 

Treatment for chronic anemia due to too little iron

The most common cause of anemia due to too little iron is menstruation. Those who have anemia due to ample menses may have blood tests on a regular basis and generally need iron supplementation until the period ends. For some, iron tablets are enough for a few days a month, while others may need larger supplements of iron.

What happens in the body?

Anemia due to having too little iron is called iron deficiency anemia. Anemia is the Latin name for anemia.

The body needs iron

Iron is a mineral substance that you get through your food. The body needs iron to form hemoglobin. It is a substance found in the red blood cells and which captures and transports oxygen from the lungs into the body.

The iron is taken up in the small intestine. The cells there regulate how much iron the body needs to absorb. From the intestine, the iron comes out into the blood which transports it to the bone marrow. There, the red blood cells are formed. Iron is also stored in the liver, spleen and bone marrow.

Anemia occurs when the body cannot form enough red blood cells

When you bleed, the body loses iron. Then the body increases the formation of red blood cells to maintain the blood value. The body has an extra iron supply to remove in the event of a bleeding, but when the supply is empty it cannot produce enough red blood cells. Then anemia occurs.

Some groups need more iron than others

You who have menstruation need more iron than people who do not receive menses. This is because you lose iron when you have a menstrual bleeding.

The need for iron is also greater during puberty because you are growing a lot then.

You who are pregnant may need extra iron to meet both the fetus and your own needs. Your blood count is checked several times during pregnancy. The midwife tells you if you need extra iron.

Anemia due to too little iron is more common in the elderly. This is partly because the uptake of iron becomes worse with age, and partly because some diseases that cause blood loss become more common the older you get. This is especially true of intestinal cancer.

Different causes of anemia due to too little iron

There are several things that anemia may be due to too little iron.

The most common cause is bleeding. It may be a short or a more prolonged bleeding. Menstrual bleeding is the most common cause of iron deficiency anemia You may have anemia due to too little iron even if your period is not plentiful. This may be because your ability to absorb iron from food is impaired or your diet does not contain enough iron.

In people who do not have menstruation, the most common cause of anemia is because of too little iron an inflammation, ulcer or tumor of the stomach or intestine.

Painkillers containing acetylsalicylic acid, naproxen or ibuprofen can cause small bleeding ulcers in the stomach or intestine during prolonged use.

Iron deficiency anemia may also be because you cannot absorb iron from the food you eat. For example, it may be because you have gluten intolerance or a bowel disease like Crohn’s disease . Then you will also often find it harder to absorb vitamin B12 and folic acid from the food.

Unusually, anemia is only due to an iron-deficient diet

It is uncommon for anemia to be due only to an iron-deficient diet.

However, you who only eat vegetarian or vegan foods should be careful about getting iron from vegetables and fruits to reduce the risk of iron deficiency.

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