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Anemia - Iron Deficiency

WHAT IS IRON DEFICIENCY ANEMIA?

A decreased number of circulating blood cells or insufficient hemoglobin (<10gm%) in the red cells is anemia. Hemoglobin carries oxygen to our body tissues. When the cause is due to inadequate levels of elemental iron in the circulation, anemia is said to be iron deficiency anemia.

Anemia is a symptom (just like fever) of other disorders. For proper treatment, the cause must be found.

SIGNS & SYMPTOMS

Mild:

  • Paleness, Tiredness and Weakness.
  • Inflamed, sore tongue.
  • Nausea.
  • Headache.

Severe:

  • Abdominal pain.
  • Breathlessness.
  • Palpitations or an abnormal awareness of the heartbeat.
  • Fainting

CAUSES

Reduced intake, decreased absorption of iron, abnormal loss or increased need for iron.

  • Rapid growth spurts.
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding, bleeding due to piles or hookworms
  • Pregnancy.
  • Malabsorption.
  • Gastrointestinal disease with bleeding, including ulcer and cancer.

RISK INCREASES WITH

  • Poor nutrition, especially multiple vitamin deficiencies.
  • Smoking, which reduces absorption of important nutrients.
  • Excess alcohol consumption, leading to poor nutrition.
  • Medical history of any disorder that reduces absorption of nutrients.
  • Use of anticonvulsant drugs.

HOW TO PREVENT

Maintain an adequate iron intake through a well-balanced diet or iron supplements.

DIAGNOSTIC MEASURES

  • Observation of symptoms.
  • History and physical exam by a doctor.
  • Laboratory blood studies, especially of hematocrit, hemoglobin and red-blood-cell counts. Stool examination specifically for occult blood to identify chronic loss of blood.
  • In certain cases, detailed study of Iron levels etc may be required
  • Imaging of the gastrointestinal tract, if indicated.

POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONS

Failure to diagnose a bleeding malignancy.

PROBABLE OUTCOME

Usually curable with iron supplements if the underlying cause can be identified and cured.

TREATMENT

GENERAL MEASURES

The most important part of treatment for iron-deficiency anemia is to correct the underlying cause. Iron deficiency can be treated well with iron supplements. Blood transfusions are rarely needed.

MEDICATION

Your will be prescribed iron supplements.

Guidelines you should follow while on iron therapy:?

  • Take iron on an empty stomach (at least 1/2-hour before meals) for best absorption. If it upsets your stomach, you may take it with a small amount of food (except milk).
  • If you take other medications, wait at least 2 hours after taking iron before taking them. Antacids and tetracycline especially interfere with iron absorption.
  • Because liquid iron supplements may discolor the teeth, a child should preferably be given liquid iron preparation through a long handled spoon or a straw. Iron supplements may also cause black discoloration of stools, diarrhea or constipation.
  • Continue iron supplements until 2 to 3 months after blood tests return to normal.
  • Too much iron is dangerous. A bottle of iron tablets can poison a child. Keep iron supplements out of the reach of children.

ACTIVITY

No restrictions.

DIET

  • Adults should limit milk to 250 ml a day. It interferes with iron absorption.
  • Eat protein and iron containing foods, including meat, beans and leafy green vegetables.
  • Increase dietary fiber to prevent constipation, which occurs as a side effect of iron therapy.

CONTACT YOUR DOCTOR, IF

  • You have symptoms of anemia.
  • Nausea, vomiting, severe diarrhea or constipation occurs during treatment
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