What Is Iron Deficiency Anemia?
Iron deficiency anemia is when your body doesn’t have enough red blood cells.
Red blood cells carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Every organ and tissue in your body needs oxygen to work. Without enough oxygen in your blood, and you may feel tired, weak, and short of breath.
You get iron deficiency anemia when your body is low in iron. You need iron to make hemoglobin, a protein that helps your red blood cells carry oxygen.
Your doctor will find out why your iron is low. Usually, you can treat iron deficiency anemia with supplements. Once your iron levels go up, you should start to feel better.
Symptoms of Iron Deficiency Anemia
Mild iron deficiency anemia often isn’t noticeable. When it gets more severe, you may have these symptoms:
Because these can also be symptoms of other conditions, see
How Do I Know if I Have Anemia?
To diagnose anemia, your doctor will likely ask you about your medical history, perform a physical exam, and order blood tests.
You can help by providing detailed answers about your symptoms, family medical history, diet, medications you take, alcohol intake, and ethnic background. Your doctor will look for symptoms of anemia and other physical clues that might point to a cause.
There are basically three different causes of anemia: blood loss, decreased or faulty red blood cell production, or destruction of red blood cells.
Blood tests will not only confirm the diagnosis of anemia, but also help point to the underlying condition. Tests might include:
- Complete blood count (CBC), which determines the number, size, volume, and hemoglobin content of red blood cells
- Blood iron level and your serum ferritin level, the best indicators of your body’s total iron stores
- Levels of vitamin