Educational Articles

Iron-Deficiency Anemia

Iron-Deficiency Anemia


Anemia is a very common condtion. This occurs when there is insufficient number of red blood cells that are important in transporting oxygen from the lungs to the tissues. There are two main different types of anemia, either from low production or excessive loss of red blood cells. The most common cause of anemia, in fact, is due to excessive blood loss, leading to iron-deficiency anemia (IDA).


When anemia develops, most patients complain of non-specific and vague symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, and inability to concentrate. They may also complain of shortness of breath, palpitation, and symptoms of angina, a heart condition due to inadequate supply of oxygen to the heart. Patients with a significant degree of anemia may appear pale, and found to have a rapid heart rate.


Anemia is typically diagnosed with blood test called complete blood count or CBC. It measures the number of red blood cells per milliliter of blood. Other tests that are frequently used in diagnosing anemia may include serum iron, ferritin, and iron binding capacity.


Although there are many causes of iron-deficiency anemia is due to blood loss. In fact, the most common cause of iron-deficiency anemia is due to blood loss in the gastrointestinal tract. However, for women of child-bearing age, menstruation may explain mild degree of iron-deficiency anemia. Some with other major illnesses such as cancer sometime can develop anemia as well.


Since iron-deficiency anemia is usually a sign of blood loss, when found, a through evaluation may be necessary. In particular, patients who are older than the age of 50, a full endoscopic evaluation is often recommended. This often includes examination such as colonoscopy and upper endoscopy. Conditions that are often associated with chronic blood loss in the gastrointestinal tract include esophagitis, esophageal cancer, gastritis, gastric cancer, stomach ulcer, duodenal ulcer, angiodysplasia, colon polyp, colon cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, and even hemorrhoid.


In iron-deficiency anemia, it is important that iron is adequately supplemented. Food that are abundant in iron include clams, liver, beef, shrimp, turkey, beans, spinach, potatoes, raisin, apricot, sunflower seed, and almonds. Iron can also be supplemented by taking iron pills. In severe cases of iron-deficiency anemia, transfusion of blood may be necessary.


Anemia is a common medical condition that is frequently due to an occult bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract. In individuals found to have an unexplained anemia, an endoscopic evaluation as well as a full hematology evaluation is often indicated.



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