Prelude To Iron Deficiency
Do you feel unreasonably exhausted after a healthy meal? Do your cheeks look pale on a windy Summer morning? Does your tongue taste weird? If the above-mentioned scenarios sound familiar, then you have good reason to read ahead. Iron deficiency is the most common mineral deficiency in the United States. It affects mostly women, infants, children and individuals already diagnosed with gastrointestinal illnesses. In this article, we have discussed the causes and symptoms of iron deficiency anemia under the following subheadings:
- Causes Of Iron Deficiency
- Signs And Symptoms
- Treatment And Diagnosis
Causes Of Iron Deficiency
Iron deficiency is a state in which your body lacks sufficient iron to fulfill its everyday needs. The iron is either lost by the body or is just inadequate in your diet. Iron is an important mineral needed by your body. It is so vital to life that the blood containing a low quantity of iron is called Tired Blood. It is actually a component of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin carries oxygen from the lungs and transports it to various tissues of the body. So your iron is indirectly controlling oxygenation of body cells. It plays a role in the transport medium of various cells as cytochromes. It is also present in enzymes and thus it facilitates many metabolic reactions.
Now, if your iron stores are drying/dried up, then it means that less hemoglobin will be formed. In turn, the oxygen supplied to the organs will also fall. This will cause a disruption of the general metabolic functions affecting a wide range of organs. Actually, it is the iron level of your body that can make you feel really glad or a complete emotional disaster.
Now there are a number of physiological and pathological causes that can lower your iron levels. Some of these are discussed below:
Inadequate Iron Intake
When your diet is not properly planned and contains little or no amount of Iron then your iron level will fall. This is especially true for vegetarians. Here, you must understand that all iron is not the same. There is Heme iron that the body needs and can be acquired from meat, poultry, fish and dairy products. And then there is Non-heme iron that the body doesn’t really absorb readily. Sources of non-heme iron are lentils, spinach, asparagus and dark green vegetables.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
If you suffer from a gastrointestinal disease (Celiac’s disease, Crohn’s disease, hookworms, food sensitivity, peptic ulcer, colorectal cancer, hiatal hernia, hemorrhoids, colon polyp e.t.c.), then you are at a higher risk of facing iron deficiency. This may result from internal bleeding. A patient may be completely unaware of the slow chronic loss of blood within his body. This blood loss causes the iron to diminish, thus causing iron deficiency.
Blood Loss During Periods
Some women experience heavy blood flow during their menstrual days. They lose a lot of blood that is not easily replaced. It happens on a monthly basis which makes it even worse. The number of Red Blood Cells (RBCs) within the body falls. Consequently, the total iron content also falls. The tissues receive poor oxygen supply. This occurs especially among teenage girls and women of child-bearing age.
Pregnancy And Childbirth
A pregnant woman requires a large amount of iron. She not only needs it to enhance her own iron storage but the baby-to-be also gets his iron supply from Mommy. Many women carrying multiples face iron deficiency. The doctors prescribe iron supplements for such ladies. If we ignore the iron deficiency in a pregnant woman, the baby born is premature. If the baby does survive infancy, chances are high he will also have iron deficiency.
Inadequate Intestinal Absorption.
If your body is a deficit of a certain nutrient, then your intestine comes into action and absorbs it from the digested food. Sometimes, due to an intestinal surgery, bypass, or ulcer, the intestines fail to perform their function. The blood vessels fail to reabsorb the iron. Subsequently, the oxygen levels fall. The organs encounter hypoxia. The heart pumps blood more rigorously.
Some drugs also have side effects that include iron depletion such as fluoroquinolone.
Frequent Blood Donation
People who drain blood excessively for social, moral or religious reasons may go too far and lose a lot of blood. These people will experience weakness, exhaustion, and dizziness. Luckily, such a case of iron deficiency is temporary. Iron supplements or iron-fortified foods can treat this condition.
Signs And Symptoms Of Iron Deficiency
Fatigue And Lethargy
You feel weak and physically drained very easily. This is because your body cells don’t have enough oxygen to carry out normal functions. Your average productivity decreases. You feel unusually tired, cranky and face difficulty in concentrating.
Paleness Of The Skin
The hemoglobin in your blood is a pigment. It is responsible for imparting color to your skin. If its quantity is low in the body, then you will lose that rosy hue you used to have. Your nails, gums, inside of the lower eyelids and face may also become pale.
Shortness Of Breath
A lesser amount of iron actually leads to the lesser amount of hemoglobin. When there is no hemoglobin to carry oxygen, don’t even dream of breathing free. You will face hindrance in breathing normally. You may feel short of breath by a task as simple as washing dishes.
In cases of severe iron deficiency, you will feel dizziness and confusion. When your oxygen level is low, your heart supplies oxygen to the brain on a priority basis. After trying so hard and so long, your heart has probably taken a break. You must also take one and visit your doctor.
Glossitis is defined as an inflammation of the tongue that changes its color, shape, and texture. You feel sore because the low levels of iron have also caused a decrease in your amount of myoglobin (Myoglobin is present in tongue). Hence, your tongue feels sore and weird. Your mouth also is cracked from the edges.
By Pica, we mean that you may crave generally unacceptable and inedible food items. By items, we are referring to ice, dirt, clay, chalk, and starch. Women have usually reported a desire for ice.
A low oxygen content of the body activates your sympathetic system. It dilates the pupil, increases the heart rate (causing palpitations, murmur, and heart failure among patients with iron deficiency anemia) and expands the vessels. In addition to this, it also causes anxiety and nervousness. Hence, if you feel anxious for no reason at all, you might want to see your physician.
Diagnosis And Treatment
To see if you have iron deficiency or not, your physician will most likely prescribe a ferritin test. Blood tests (Haemoglobin, hematocrit tests) are used to study iron levels.
Iron supplements, tablets, and syrup are used to treat iron deficiency in its initial stages. The popular supplements include:
- Ferrous Sulphate
- Ferrous Gluconate
- Amino Acid Chelate
60% of cases of iron deficiency anemia already suffer from a gastrointestinal disorder. Therefore, hospitals have expert diagnosticians to determine their proper treatment. Some other types of anemia like Vitamin C and Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia are also prevalent.
Some Foods Rich In Iron Are
- Red meat, pork, and poultry
- Cereals and beans
- Green vegetables
- Dried food (raisins, apricots, almonds)
- Clam and octopus
- Iron-fortified foods
- Breast milk for infants (human milk contains lactoferrin that effectively binds iron)
- Vitamin C as it enhances absorption of iron in the intestine. Various sources of Vit C include citrus juice, broccoli, kiwi, grapefruit, tomatoes, and peppers.
The average amount of iron in males is 3.8 gm. In females, it is 2.3 gm. If these levels are not maintained, the body faces a serious dilemma. It is troubling and can’t perform regular circulatory and immune functions. If the doctors fail to properly treat Latent Iron Deficiency, symptoms worsen and the patient gets anemia. So in case you have been diagnosed with iron deficiency or suspect that you have an iron deficit, discuss your condition with your physician and devise a dietary plan. With proper care and precaution, iron deficiency can be treated.
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