Anemia is a low level of healthy red blood cells (RBC). RBCs carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. When red blood cells are low the body does not get enough oxygen. This can cause symptoms such as fatigue, pale skin, or irregular heartbeat.
Iron is needed to build healthy RBCs. Iron-deficiency anemia is caused by low levels of iron in the body.
Red Blood Cells
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Factors that play a role include:
These factors increase your chance of developing this condition. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:
While most people with mild anemia have no symptoms, when present, symptoms may include:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam.
Tests may include:
Treatments may include:
Iron can be taken as a supplement or as part of a multivitamin. Iron comes in many "salt" forms. Ferrous salts are better absorbed than ferric salts. Ferrous sulfate is the cheapest and most commonly used iron salt. Slow-release or coated products may cause less stomach problems. However, they may not be absorbed as well. Some products contain vitamin C to improve absorption. Talk to your doctor, though, because your iron level could get too high.
Your doctor may recommend that you feed your baby iron-fortified cereal.
To help reduce you or your child's chances of getting this condition, take the following steps:
American Academy of Pediatrics
American College Obstetrics and Gynecology
Dietitians of Canada
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Beers MH, Berkow R. The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy . 17th ed. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons; 1999.
Beers MH, Berkow R. The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy . 18th ed. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons; 2006.
Iron. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/healthLibrary/ . Updated December 2007. Accessed July 15, 2008.
Schroeder K. Good food sources of iron. EBSCO Health Library website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/healthLibrary/ . Updated December 2006. Accessed July 15, 2008.
US Preventive Services Task Force. The Guide to Clinical Preventive Services: Report of the United States Preventive Services Task Force . 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2002.
US Preventive Services Task Force. The Guide to Clinical Preventive Services: Report of the United States Preventive Services Task Force . AHRQ Publication No. 06-0588; Rockville, MD: 2006.
10/12/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php : Baker R, Greer F, the Committee on Nutrition. Clinical report—diagnosis and prevention of iron deficiency and iron-deficiency anemia in infants and young children (0-3 years of age). American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: http://pediatrics.... . Published October 5, 2010. Accessed October 12, 2010.
Last reviewed September 2013 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 9/30/2013