A decreased number of circulating red blood cells, or insufficient hemoglobin
in the cells. Anemia is a symptom of other disorders. For proper treatment, the
cause must be found. It decreases the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood
which affects all body cells. Iron deficiency is a common cause of anemia, but
there are other causes.
Frequent signs and symptoms:
- Initially there may be no symptoms.
Signs of pronounced anemia include:
- Tiredness and weakness
- Paleness, especially in the hands and lining of the lower eyelids
Less common signs include:
- Tongue inflammation
- Rapid heartbeat
- Unusual quietness or withdrawal in a child
- Appetite loss
- Cravings for ice, paint or dirt (pica)
- Susceptibility to infection
- Decreased absorption of iron or increased need for iron.
Causes in infants and children
- Poor nutrition. Between 6 months and 2 years of age, children may
consume large quantities of milk, to the exclusion of iron-containing
- Premature birth. Premature babies often have low stores of iron at
Causes in adolescents and adults
- Rapid growth spurts
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Gastrointestinal disease with bleeding, including cancer
- Adults over 60
- Recent illness, such as an ulcer, diverticulitis, colitis,
hemorrhoids or gastrointestinal tumors
- Maintain an adequate iron intake through a well-balanced diet or
- Provide iron-fortified formula for bottle-fed infants
- Usually curable with iron supplements if the underlying cause can
be identified and cured.
- Failure to diagnose a bleeding malignancy
- Diagnostic tests may include laboratory blood studies of serum
iron, total iron-binding capacity and ferritin
- The most important part of treatment for iron-deficiency anemia is
to correct the underlying cause. Iron deficiency can be treated well with
- Blood transfusions are sometimes prescribed, but they should be
unnecessary, except in rare instances.
- Lower your risk of infections.
Medication/ Iron supplements:
- Take iron on an empty stomach (at least ½ hour before meals)
for best absorption. If it upsets your stomach, you may take it with a
small amount of food (except milk).
- If you take other medications, wait at least 2 hours after taking
iron before taking them. Antacids and tetracyclines
especially interfere with iron absorption.
- Because liquid iron supplements may discolor the teeth, a child
should drink any liquid preparation through a straw. Iron supplements may
also cause black bowel movements, diarrhea or constipation.
- Continue iron supplements until 2 to 3 months after blood tests
return to normal.
- Too much iron is dangerous. A bottle of iron tablets can poison a
child. Keep iron supplements out of the reach of children.
- No restrictions. You may need to pace activities until symptoms of
fatigue are gone.
- Adults should limit milk to 1 pint a day as it interferes with iron
- Eat protein and iron containing foods, including meat, beans, and
leafy green vegetables.
- Increase dietary fiber to prevent constipation.
Notify our office if:
- You or a family member has symptoms of anemia.
- You develop nausea, vomiting, fever, stomach pain, severe diarrhea
or constipation during treatment.
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