Iron Deficiency Anemia: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Feels tired at the slightest effort? Has dizziness or feeling faint? Your skin is more pale than usual? These can be the symptoms of iron deficiency anemia.

Iron deficiency Anemia is a type of anemia where there is a deprivation or deficiency of iron in the blood, which has as a consequence a decrease in production, the size and the content of hemoglobin in the blood, harming therefore the whole cascade production of red blood cells.

Hemoglobin is essential in the body since it is responsible for transporting oxygen to all cells of the human body. The decrease of haemoglobin in the blood can cause serious consequences in the body.

This type of anemia is worrying, because that can put in risk the life of the person, in particular when the values of hemoglobin in women are less than 11 g/dl and in men and below 12 g/dl.


It is proven that the biggest risk factor in this disease is the ingestion of food insufficient of iron, which occurs often in children/adolescents, the elderly and pregnant women.
Other groups that are at risk are: vegetarian malevolently, patients who are undergoing bariatric surgery with the goal of losing body weight, people who suffer from hypothyroidism or people who make donated blood often.


This type of anemia can be caused by four reasons:

  • Food intake insufficient of food that contain iron;
  • Pregnancy, because the body of the woman prioritizes the development of the baby, which causes the stock of iron present is directed to the fetal development;
  • Decreased absorption of iron by the intestinal mucosa, which may be caused by:
    • Surgery where they remove part of the stomach or intestine;
    • Intestinal parasites;
    • Dejeções liquid (diarrhea) frequent;
    • Celiac disease, due to chronic inflammation of the intestinal mucosa.
  • Bleeding recurrent, caused by:
    • Bleeding chronic of the gastrointestinal system (caused for example by Crohn’s disease, esophageal varices, hernia or gastric ulcers, among other situations);
    • Hipermenorréia or the menstrual flow is abnormally high and full in the time;
    • Fibroids fibroids;
    • Epistáxis (nasal bleeding), or hematuria (blood in urine) constants.

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This type of anemia may present subtly at the beginning of the pathology, however to the extent that increase may manifest itself as follows:

  • Tired easy, which worsens with efforts;
  • Generalized weakness;
  • Drowsiness;
  • Discouragement;
  • Dizziness and/or lightheadedness;
  • Tachycardia (heart rate accelerated, in adults, above 100 beats per minute);
  • The skin and mucous membranes bleached (pale);
  • Cephalalgia (headaches);
  • Pain in the lower limbs (legs);
  • Edema (swelling) of the ankles;
  • Hair loss;
  • Nails fragile and brittle;
  • Geofagia, or Pica (the desire, uncontrollable swallowing the earth);
  • Decreased appetite;
  • The decreased ability of concentration and reasoning;
  • Memory lapses;
  • Decrease in sexual appetite;
  • Dry skin.


The diagnosis of this pathology is carried out through analytical control, or whether it is through blood test, where it will be collected in a tube for the cbc, which evaluates the amount of hemoglobin, the values of RDW, serum iron, ferritin, transferrin saturation and transferrin.

The iron deficiency anemia is perceived by the decreased serum iron and ferritin (protein that stores iron), increased transferrin (the protein that carries iron when it is out of red blood cells) and the saturation of transferrin.

When the doctor considers that the decrease of iron in blood is caused due to food, he may require the following tests to determine the cause of the anemia:

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  • Endoscopy Digesta High;
  • Colonoscopy;
  • Parasitological exam of Feces;
  • Smear of the Bone Marrow;
  • Analysis of the urine;
  • Occult blood in the stool.


The treatment should be done taking into account the underlying cause of the pathology, however, is based mostly on supplementation drug iron for approximately four months and a diet rich in foods containing iron (for example: red meats, spinach, black beans, lentils, parsley, egg yolk, liver, among others).

Keep in mind that iron supplements make the stool dark or black and often cause constipation.

It is advised also intake of foods that enhance iron absorption, such as, for example, foods rich in Vitamin C, as well as you should decrease the intake of foods that can further enhance the reduction of iron absorption, such as, for example, caffeine or chocolate.

In cases where the iron supplementation orally is not effective, it is necessary to consider the resource to the administration of iron via parental (intravenous).

It is important to perform an analytical control three to four months after initiation of treatment, because too much iron can harm the liver.

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Only the doctor can tell you which medicine is most suitable for your case, as well as the correct dosage and duration of treatment.