Iron Deficiency Anemia : Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Management and Complications

Iron Deficiency Anemia : Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Management and Complications

Iron is very important ingredient of human diet. This is essential for formation of haemoglobin   Low levels of Haemoglobin causes Iron deficiency anaemia. The red cells contain haemoglobin. The red cells are important particles in blood.

Haemoglobin in red cells carry oxygen all over the body. Iron-deficiency anemia (or iron-deficiency anemia) is a most common form of anemia (low red blood cell or hemoglobin levels).

Normal Hemoglobin Levels: Hemoglobin is measured in grams per deciliter of blood.

The normal levels are:

  • Women: 12.1 to 15.1 gm/dl
  • Men: 13.8 to 17.2 gm/dl
  • Children: 11 to 16 g/dl
  • Pregnant women: 11 to 15.1 g/dl.


The most common symptoms include:

  • Tiredness
  • Lethargy (lack of energy)
  • Shortness of breath (dyspnoea) Less common symptoms include:
  • Headache
  • An altered sense of taste
  • Pica – a desire to eat non-food items, such as ice, paper or clay
  • A sore tongue
  • Feeling itchy
  • Hair loss
  • Difficulty in swallowing (dysphagia)


It can be due to:

Anemia caused by destruction of red blood cells (Haemolysis): Inherited conditions, such as sickle cell anemia and thalassemia, stressors such as infections, drugs, snake or spider venom, or certain foods.

Blood loss: Blood contains iron within red blood cells. So if a person loses blood, he or she will lose some iron. Women with heavy periods are at high risk of iron deficiency anemia as blood is lost during menstruation. Slowly, chronic blood loss within the body such as from a peptic ulcer, a hiatus hernia, a colon polyp or colorectal cancer can also cause iron-deficiency anemia. It can also be due to conditions like hemorrhoids, gastritis (inflammation of the stomach),and cancer, use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as aspirin or ibuprofen, which can cause ulcers and gastritis.

Lack of iron in the diet:The body regularly gets iron from the food we eat. If a person consumes too little iron, over time the body can become iron-deficient. Examples of iron-rich foods include meat, eggs, leafy green vegetables and iron-fortified foods. For proper growth and development, infants and children need iron from their diet.

An inability to absorb iron: Iron from food is absorbed into the bloodstream in the small intestine. An intestinal disorder such as celiac disease, which affects the intestine’s ability to absorb nutrients from digested food, can lead to iron-deficiency anemia. If part of the small intestine has been bypassed or removed surgically, that may affect the ability to absorb iron and other nutrients.

Pregnancy: Without iron supplementation, iron deficiency anemia occurs in many pregnant women because iron stores need to serve their own increased blood volume as well as be a source of hemoglobin for the developing fetus.


To diagnosis Iron deficiency anemia blood test is performed to check the levels of:

  • Hemoglobin (a protein that transports oxygen) will be lower than normal
  • Fewer red blood cells (cells that contain hemoglobin) than normal
  • Red blood cells may be smaller and paler than usual
  • To check the levels of Vitamin B12 or folate as works with vitamin B12 to help your body produce red blood cells.


An iron supplement to restore iron deficiency in the body. The most commonly prescribed supplement is ferrous sulphate, taken orally (by mouth) two or three times a day. Iron-rich foods include:

  • Dark-green leafy vegetables, such as watercress and curly kale
  •  Iron-fortified cereals
  •  Whole grains, such as brown rice
  •  Beans
  •  Nuts
  •  Meat
  •  Apricots
  •  Prunes
  •  Raisins

For treatment one should consult your physician.


Iron deficiency anemia rarely causes serious or long-term complications:

Tiredness:  In Iron deficiency anemia, a person becomes tired and lethargic (lacking in energy), leading to less productivity and activity.

Immune system: Research has shown iron deficiency anemia can affect your immune system (the body’s natural defense system), making more susceptible to illness and infection.

Heart and lung complications: Adults with severe anemia may be at risk of developing complications that affect their heart or lungs.

For example it may lead to:

  • Tachycardia (an abnormally fast heartbeat)
  • Heart failure, when your heart is not pumping blood around your body very efficiently

Pregnancy: Pregnant women with severe anemia have an increased risk of developing complications, particularly during and after the birth. They may also develop postnatal depression (a type of depression some women experience after having a baby).

Note : This  information provided in the website of AIMU is only for  understanding the subject . If one has such symptoms/ condition, he/she should consult a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.