What is Anemia?

Iron Deficiency: #1 Cause of Anemia

There are many different types of anemia, but Iron Deficiency Anemia (IDA) is a condition resulting from too little iron in the body which leads to too little oxygen in the body's blood cells. In the USA, despite food fortification, iron deficiency is on the rise in certain populations. Iron deficiency at critical times of growth and development can result in premature births, low birth weight babies, delayed growth and development, delayed normal infant activity and movement.

Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency and the leading cause of anemia in the world. It is estimated that at least two billion people worldwide are affected and at least 3.5 million Americans are anemic, but the actual number of people suffering from anemia is probably far greater. Unfortunately, anemia is often overlooked.


Anemia Leads to Numerous Health Problems

While anemia is not as recognized a diagnosis as cancer, for example, it has far-reaching implications on cardiovascular and overall health. Many individuals, including physicians, erroneously consider anemia to be a benign condition when, in fact, anemia can reduce quality of life and increase the risk of death. Anemia is associated with a wide array of health problems, including a reduced life expectancy, decreased ability to live independently, increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, and worsening of dementia. Anemia may also be the first sign of a serious underlying disease such as cancer or nutritional deficiency. Unrecognized and untreated, these diseases can have serious consequences, even death.


Anemia Results in Poor Cognitive Skills

Anemia can result in poor memory or cognitive skills (mental function) and can result in lower performance in school, work, and in military or recreational activities. Lower IQs have been linked to iron deficiency occurring during critical periods of growth.


Anemia: Detection and Diagnosis

Early detection is so very important. Anemia can be diagnosed by a *simple blood test, but unfortunately, your doctor may not routinely test for iron and your insurance company may not cover the costs of testing. If that is the case, we highly recommend that you click HERE to order easy and affordable iron tests.

The tests used most often to detect iron deficiency include hemoglobin (the iron-containing protein in the blood that carries iron and oxygen to cells), hematocrit (provides the percentage measures of of red blood cells in the blood), serum ferritin (indicates the amount of iron stored in the body), and serum iron and iron-binding capacity (IBC, UIBC or TIBC). The latter measures are used to calculate transferrin-iron saturation percentage (TS%), a measure of iron in transit in the serum.

Serum ferritin is a very important test because it helps distinguish between iron deficiency anemia and anemia of chronic disease (also called anemia of inflammatory response). In cases of iron deficiency anemia, iron supplements can be helpful; but in cases of anemia of chronic disease, iron supplements could be harmful, even fatal.

Other tests might include: a complete blood count, zinc protoporphyrin, free erythrocyte protoporphyrin or reticulocyte hemoglobin content (CHr). To learn more about these tests visit tests to determine iron levels.

*IMPORTANT TO KNOW: A diagnosis of iron deficiency can be made when a person has BOTH low hemoglobin and hematocrit AND a low serum ferritin. Serum iron and transferrin-iron saturation percentage will also be low in a person who is iron deficient. Iron deficiency without anemia can occur when a person has a normal hemoglobin, but below normal serum ferritin and/or transferrin saturation. Iron deficiency with anemia can occur when a person has low values of both serum ferritin and hemoglobin.

Click HERE for our Personal Health Profile which lists the normal ranges for blood count, iron panels and a variety of other tests you doctor may perform. You can log your medical information on this form to keep as a personal record.

For a list of the signs and symptoms associated with IDA, please visit our Red Flags page and read  descriptive accounts and view our Video Blogs on our Personal Stories page.


Who's Most at Risk for Iron Deficiency Anemia (IDA)?

Anemia is a condition that affects people across the age spectrum, from the newborn to the elderly. Women of childbearing age -- adolescent and adult females ages 12-49 -- are most at risk for developing IDA. African American and Hispanic women and their young children are prone to iron deficiency, possibly because of diet or perhaps different hemoglobin needs. Men are rarely iron deficient; but when they are, it is generally due to blood loss from the digestive tract (sometimes indicating disease), diseases that affect iron absorption, surgical procedures that affect iron absorption and in some cases, alcohol abuse. Except for those who are strict vegetarians, men rarely have dietary iron deficiency.


Causes of Iron Deficiency

Iron deficiency can be the result of numerous and multiple causes. These fall into two broad categories: an increased need for iron and a decreased intake or absorption of iron.

(1) Increased Demand for Iron

The increased demand for iron can occur with certain conditions including:

    • blood loss from heavy menstruation
    • pregnancy

    • frequent or excessive blood donation

    • fibroids

    • digestive tract disease (including infections)

    • surgeries

    • accidents/injuries

Iron deficiency can also be caused by:

    • certain medications
    • some dietary supplements or substances that cause bleeding such as pain relievers with aspirin
    • a result of poisoning from lead, toxic chemicals or alcohol abuse

(2) Decreased Intake or Absorption of Iron

Decreased intake or absorption can occur in diets that do not include heme iron, the iron found in meat and shellfish. Heme iron is absorbed more efficiently than non-heme iron found in plants and dietary supplements.

Diseases and medical conditions can also limit iron absorption; this can happen as a result of insufficient stomach acid, lack of intrinsic factor (hormone needed to absorb vitamin B12), celiac disease, inflammatory conditions such as Crohn’s disease, and in autoimmune diseases and hormone imbalances.


 

Treatment

It's imperative that you see a doctor who can diagnose your IDA and help you get proper treatment. It's also vitally important to fully educate yourself about the dangers of untreated IDA. Iron Deficiency Anemia can often be corrected with iron supplementation. Sometimes, additional treatments such as iron infusions and even blood transfusions can be necessary, especially if you're bleeding internally. Visit our Management page for more information.

Diet

Nutrition and diet play an enormous role in the treatment and maintenance of Iron Deficiency Anemia. We recommend that you view our Diet Guidelines and Recipes to get started. 

What If I Need a Little More Information?

We highly recommend that you purchase the Guide to Anemia. This medically-backed book is filled with information about Iron Deficiency Anemia, diet information, genetics, and personal stories. To purchase click here or below.

 

Iron Disorders Institute's: Guide To Anemia. 

Guide to Anemia is a wonderful resource for your questions about Iron Deficiency Anemia. Purchase your copy today


Iron Tests

Now you can purchase Iron Lab Tests from the comfort of your living room. The process is simple: visit our tests page, purchase the tests you want, receive a prescription right on the site and take it to thousands of lab centers across the United States. 

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Buy The Book

Guide to Anemia is an excellent resource for the Iron Deficiency Anemia patient. This book is backed by world-renowned Physicians that specialize in the field of Anemia. The book also boasts personal stories, genetics information, and much more.

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IDA & Diet

Diet is such a vital aspect of the Iron Deficiency Anemia patient's journey. This is why Iron Disorders Institute created a diet page specifically for the IDA patient. On this page, you can get diet tips, recipes, and much more. Follow the link below for more. 

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