Iron-deficiency anemia is a common type of anemia that occurs if you do not have sufficient iron in your body. People with mild or moderate iron-deficiency anemia may show signs or symptoms like headaches, dizziness, insomnia, fatigue or tiredness, shortness of breath or chest pain.
The prevention and treatment of iron deficiency is a major public health goal, especially in pregnant women, growing children and individuals with improper dietary habits. Medical care starts with establishing the diagnosis, cause and severity of the iron deficiency and treating the underlying etiology through oral iron therapy, healthy eating changes and iron supplements. If left untreated, iron-deficiency anemia can result in serious complications, including heart failure and development delays in children. Possible treatments may include iron supplements, procedures, surgery, dietary changes and intravenous iron therapy or a blood transfusion in severe cases.
- Healthy dietary changes
The first and often fundamental step that doctors recommend to correct minor iron deficiencies is to make simple changes to your diet. Although the best source of iron is red meat and spinach, there are plenty of other options for people who are vegetarian or vegan. For example, peas, lentils, baked beans, soybeans, tofu, fried fruits, spinach, and fortified breads and cereals are excellent sources of iron in the human body. To help treat your iron-deficiency anemia, also adopt healthy lifestyle changes such as heart-healthy eating patterns, increase your intake of vitamin C to help your body absorb iron and avoid drinking black tea, which reduces iron absorption.
- Iron Supplements
In cases of moderate to severe iron deficiency, dietary changes are often not enough to improve the health of an individual, and you may be prescribed iron supplements or iron pills once or several times a day to increase the iron in your body. Iron supplements like Fergon are commonly recommended by health professionals to treat anemia and prevent the worsening of iron deficiencies among patients. When one begins to take these supplements, it is also important to get enough vitamin C on a regular basis, as it assists with iron absorption and can be found in oranges, grapefruits, strawberries and cantaloupes. Also, do not stop taking your prescribed iron supplements suddenly without first consulting your doctor. If possible, take the supplements two hours before or four hours after taking your antacids, as medications that immediately relieve heartburn symptoms can interfere with the absorption of iron.
- Blood Transfusions
For very severe cases of iron deficiency anemia, it may be necessary to receive a transfusion of red blood cells. This involves giving a person blood via IV line through a blood vessel and is typically used on patients who have a high risk of heart conditions or other medical issues that could be worsened by iron deficiency anemia.
- Iron Therapy or Intravenous (IV) Iron
Another potent treatment for severe cases of iron deficiency anemia is iron therapy which involves injecting iron into an IV line in a blood vessel or into a muscle. This option is typically only considered when a patient is unable to take iron supplements by mouth due to some chronic medical conditions such as kidney disease or celiac disease. One benefit of this method is that it often takes only one or a few sessions to replenish the amount of iron in your body. Patients might experience vomiting, headache, or other side effects right after the IV iron, but these usually go away within a day or two.
Ultimately, the goals of treating an iron deficiency are to bring back normal functioning levels of red blood cells, hemoglobin, and iron. And treatment protocol for iron deficiency anemia may include any or a combination of these options. So talk to your doctor and find out if you’re at a greater risk for iron deficiency and the steps you need to take to lower your risk.