What is iron deficiency anaemia
Anaemia occurs when number of red blood cells in the blood is lower than normal. Iron deficiency anaemia is the most common form of anaemia which occurs when your body does not have enough iron to build healthy red blood cells. Iron is very important in maintaining many body functions, including production of haemoglobin which carries oxygen in our blood.
Causes of iron deficiency
1. Increased Iron Needs
- Rapid growth
- Blood loss, due to heavy menstrual periods, frequent blood donation or some stomach and intestinal conditions.
2. Decreased Iron Intake and Absorption
- Low amount of iron in the diet
- Poor absorption of iron by the body
- Side effects of certain medications which reduce iron absorption.
Are you at risk of anaemia?
Most people have anaemia at some point of time in their lives. This could be due to:
- Menstrual period – Every time woman loses blood via heavy menstrual periods, iron also gets depleted from her body.
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding – Iron stores in the mother’s body are used up faster than normal by growing baby.
- Poor diets – Diets with low iron, vitamin B12 and folic acid make it hard for the body to produce sufficient red blood cells.
- Serious illnesses – Having disorders involving the bone marrow, pancreas, intestines, kidneys and liver deplete the iron stores in the body.
- Family history – Having an inherited history of anaemia puts you at higher risk.
Symptoms of anaemia
- Feeling tired & weak
- Rapid heart beat
- Shortness of breath
- Pale skin
Iron deficiency is a concern because it can :
- Increase risk for small or preterm babies during pregnancy. Small or preterm babies are more likely to have health problems or die in the first year of life.
- Affect the cognitive performance, behavior and physical growth of infants, preschool and school-aged children.
- Affect memory or other mental functions in teens.
- Cause fatigue and impair the ability to do physical work in adults.
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommendations to Prevent and Control Iron Deficiency in the United States. MMWE 1998; 47 (RR-3); 1-36. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00051880.htm.
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Who is at risk for anemia. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/anemia/atrisk.
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Iron-Deficiency Anemia? Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/ida/signs.
- United Nations Children’s Fund. United Nations University, World Health Organization. Iron Deficiency Anaemia, Assessment, Prevention, and Control, a guide for programme managers. WHO/NHD/01.3 2001; 7-10. Available at: http://www.who.int/nutrition/publications/en/ida_assessment_prevention_control.pdf.