Iron deficiency anemia

Iron deficiency anemia

Hemoglobin is a type of protein found in the red blood cells. Normal hemoglobin levels are 12 to 16 gm/dL in adult females and 14-18 gm/dL in adult males. When blood hemoglobin levels drop lower than these normal values, this condition is termed as anemia. Anemia can be caused due to several factors. When anemia arises as a result of deficiency of iron, it is termed as iron deficiency anemia. Iron deficiency is the commonest type of anemia.

Causative & risk factors

Iron deficiency anemia is caused due to deficient iron intake, defects in iron absorption or excessive iron loss from the body.

Dietary deficiency of iron is usually observed in young children and pregnant women. Defective absorption of iron can occur as a result of celiac disease or gastric/intestinal surgery. Excessive loss of iron can occur as a result of internal bleeding from ulcers or hemorrhoids or due to heavy menstrual bleeding. Chronic renal failure or chronic kidney disease can also lead to iron deficiency anemia.


Clinical presentation

The symptoms will start manifesting as anemia becomes severe. An anemic patient starts feeling breathless and fatigued even with little exertion. He may be confused or forgetful and experience episodes of dizziness. Skin looks pale, muscle strength is reduced, movements may become uncoordinated and the patient starts losing weight.



A complete blood count is performed along with examination of a peripheral smear. The red blood cells appear large (microcytic) and less colored (hypochromic). The serum ferritin levels are tested.

A complete gastro-intestinal evaluation must be performed to locate any internal bleeding.



The patient is advised to consume iron rich foodstuffs regularly. Oral supplements of iron are advised for a specified period.

In severe cases, intravenous iron or blood transfusions are given.


Recent updates

A study found that in spite of providing vitamin supplementation, many patients who have undergone laparoscopic bypass surgery eventually develop iron or vitamin B12 deficiency anemia.

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