What is Iron Deficiency Anemia?
Iron deficiency anemia can be defined as a reduction in the number of hemoglobin carrying red blood cells in the body due to a lack of iron. A number of factors contribute to and exacerbate the effects of iron deficiency, but it is ultimately a result of the body utilizing more iron than it is provided.
Some of the common causes of iron deficiency include:
- Insufficient nutritional intake
- Blood loss due to menstruation or injury
- Drug interactions
- Dietary iron absorption interference
- The presence of certain diseases or disorders
Iron is a building block of hemoglobin, and a vital component of our body’s natural oxygen delivery system. Hemoglobin is an oxygen-binding protein found within red blood cells, and is responsible for the collection of oxygen molecules from the lungs for delivery throughout the body.
Maintaining good oxygenation requires iron to make hemoglobin, folic acid and B12 to make red blood cells, healthy lungs to allow oxygen exchange, and a healthy heart to pump the red blood cells where they need to go. A problem with any of these components will lead to a reduction in oxygen levels in the body. In the case of iron deficiency, this will lead to a reduction in hemoglobin levels which the body will try to compensate for by increasing the heart and respiratory rate.
Iron deficiency leads to a lack of oxygen within our vital organs, blood stream, and muscles.
The condition varies in severity according to the level of deficiency. Those who are chronically deficient develop iron deficiency anemia, a dangerous and possibly fatal condition especially in the presence of a cardiac, respiratory or other underlying problem.
If you are concerned about being iron deficient, it is imperative to get medical treatment as soon as possible. Your doctor may prescribe a combination of dietary adjustments and iron supplements such as
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Iron deficiency – United States, 1999–2000.MMWR 2002;51:897–899.
- US National Library of Medicine, NIH. Iron deficiency anemia. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/ida/ida_whatis.html
- Office of Dietary Supplements, NIH.Dietary supplement fact sheet. http://dietary-supplements.info.nih.gov/factsheets/iron.asp