Iron Deficiency Anemia

Also known as: anemia

What is iron deficiency anemia?

Anemia is a medical condition that occurs when the body’s blood doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells containing hemoglobin. Iron is needed to make hemoglobin. Hemoglobin allows the blood to carry oxygen, so a number of symptoms can arise when the blood doesn’t have enough of it. Iron deficiency anemia is the most common form of anemia in children.

What causes iron deficiency anemia?

Iron deficiency anemia can occur for several reasons. Premature infants have little in iron storage, infants older than 6 months who only have breast milk are at risk, toddlers who stop eating fortified cereals, or children simply who don't eat enough iron-rich foods (even more iron is needed when children grow rapidly or enter puberty) or who bleed from increased menstruation or other causes of ongoing blood loss, are all at risk for iron deficiency anemia.

Other times, the iron in the diet is plentiful, but the body has trouble absorbing it properly.

What are the symptoms of iron deficiency anemia?

Mild anemia may have no signs or symptoms. With severe anemia symptoms include weakness and fatigue, headaches, problems concentrating, pale skin, cold feet or hands, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat and other symptoms.

What are iron deficiency anemia care options?

Eating more foods rich in iron (dark leafy vegetables, cereals with added iron, eggs, most meats and fish, yellow fruits and vegetables) and taking iron supplements are the common treatments for iron deficiency anemia. Rarely blood transfusions or intravenous iron may be needed.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: March 16, 2020 09:16 AM

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