What is iron-deficiency anemia?
Iron-deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia, a condition that happens when your body does not make enough healthy red blood cells or the blood cells do not work correctly.
Iron-deficiency anemia happens when you don’t have enough iron in your body. Your body needs iron to make hemoglobin, the part of the red blood cell that carries oxygen through your blood to all parts of your body.
Treatment for iron-deficiency anemia depends on the cause:
- Blood loss from a digestive system problem. If you have an ulcer, your doctor may give you antibiotics or other medicine to treat the ulcer. If your bleeding is caused by a polyp or cancerous tumor, you may need surgery to remove it.
- Blood loss from heavy menstrual periods. Your doctor may give you hormonal birth control to help relieve heavy periods. If your heavy bleeding does not get better, your doctor may recommend surgery. Types of surgery to control heavy bleeding include endometrial ablation, which removes or destroys your uterine lining, and hysterectomy, which removes all or parts of your uterus.
- Increased need for iron. If you have problems absorbing iron or have lower iron levels but do not have severe anemia, your doctor may recommend:
- Iron pills to build up your iron levels as quickly as possible. Do not take any iron pills without first talking to your doctor or nurse.
- Eating more foods that contain iron. Good sources of iron include meat, fish, eggs, beans, peas, and fortified foods (look for cereals fortified with 100% of the daily value for iron).
- Eating more foods with vitamin C. Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron. Good sources of vitamin C include oranges, broccoli, and tomatoes.
If you have severe bleeding or symptoms of chest pain or shortness of breath, your doctor may recommend iron or red blood cell transfusions. Transfusions are for severe iron deficiencies only and are much less common.