Iron Deficiency Anemia
Iron deficiency is having too little iron in your body. Iron is in red blood cells.
Anemia is a low blood cell count. Specifically, you don't have enough red blood cells.
You need iron to make hemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout your body.
When there isn't enough iron in your body to make hemoglobin, your body makes too few red blood cells. The cells that are made are unusually small.
The most common causes of iron deficiency anemia are:
You need only a little iron in your daily diet. That's because your body re-uses the iron from old red blood cells to make new red blood cells. However, bleeding causes your body to lose iron. Bleeding is the most common cause of low iron and of iron deficiency anemia. The most common causes of bleeding vary by sex and age:
In younger women, heavy periods (menstrual bleeding)
In men and older women, bleeding from the digestive tract (stomach or intestines)
In older women, bleeding from the uterus
During periods of growth, such as pregnancy and early childhood, your body needs extra iron. To avoid iron deficiency during these times, you need to eat iron-rich foods, such as beef, chicken, and fish.
Rarely, doctors give the iron by vein, but this usually isn't necessary.
Treating anemia with iron usually takes 3 to 6 weeks to work. However, you'll usually keep taking iron for about 6 months to replace all the lost iron.
The iron pills or liquid work best if you take them:
Doctors will do blood tests to make sure you’ve gotten enough iron.