Iron deficiency anemia results when there is not enough hemoglobin generated because of the lack of iron in the body. It's the most common type of anemia around the world prevalent among women and people living in developing countries. Iron deficiency anemia results to the development of abnormal red blood cells (RBC): they can either be too small (microcytic) or pale (hypochromic). Treating the condition is important because lack of red blood cells results to insufficient oxygen distribution throughout the body causing several complications and health problems.
Causes of iron deficiency anemia
Women of child baring age are prone to develop iron deficiency anemia because of menstruation. The loss of blood during menstruation greatly reduces iron in the body needed to generate hemoglobin. Blood loss from other causes such as peptic ulcer, kidney or bladder defects and tumors, colorectal cancer and other colon problems, etc. can also cause iron deficiency among men and women of all ages. In developing countries, among the common causes of iron deficiency anemia are lack of proper diet and parasitic infection. It's common to see children and adults from these countries that show signs of anemia due to bleeding from worm infestation in the intestines.
Symptoms of iron deficiency anemia
Iron deficiency anemia may not show symptoms until the condition becomes severe. The symptoms include fatigue, lack or energy, shortness of breath, headache, short attention span, irritability, dizziness, and pale skin. The heartbeat could also become rapid to compensate the low oxygen distribution in the body. Nails could become brittle, lips could crack, and children could show poor appetite. Sufferers can also show signs of craving for other substances other than food such as clay, flecks of old paint, or dirt.
Complications of iron deficiency anemia
The low hemoglobin level in the body can cause several damages due to insufficient distribution of oxygen particularly to the brain. Children and infants are particularly vulnerable to low blood oxygen level causing stunted or delayed growth and poor school performance. In severe cases, they can develop physical damages such as walking and talking impairments. And the risk of infection is also high among anemic infants and children.
Pregnant women with iron deficiency anemia are at a high risk of termination or premature delivery. Often, babies are born with low birth weight, which in itself poses other complications. The baby's' brain development is also low in mothers with anemia.
The body's reaction to low blood oxygen level is particularly dangerous to people with heart problems also. To compensate the low oxygen, the brain directs the heart to pump faster thereby increasing the risk of developing heart attacks among patients with coronary artery disease and heart defects.
Treatment of iron deficiency anemia
Iron deficiency anemia is easily treated, however. The doctors will start with eliminating the cause of the iron deficiency and then proceeds to giving iron supplements to augment the iron level in the system. For instance, if parasitic infestation caused the iron deficiency, anthelmintic drugs are given to eliminate the parasitic worms to stop the blood loss. Proper diet is given to those suffering from iron deficient diet. Pregnant and menstruating women are also advised to take iron supplements to compensate for the loss iron in the body.
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