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Iron Deficiency

Iron Deficiency

Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anaemia. If you are lacking in iron you will probably feel tired and short of breath.

There’s a good reason for this - being anaemic means you do not have enough red blood cells in your body.Red blood cells contain a protein called haemoglobin which carries oxygen from the lungs to all of the body’s cells. Oxygen is the body’s fuel used to burn sugar and fat to produce energy. If you are short of haemoglobin then trying to carry oxygen around your body is like trying to run on empty.

Symptoms:

  • Fatigue.
  • Palpitations.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Dizziness.
  • Headaches & leg pain Chest pains.
  • Dry mouth & throat.
  • Headaches & leg pain Mouth sores.

What causes iron deficiency?

In order to make haemoglobin the body must take in sufficient amounts of iron, vitamin B-12 and folate (vitamin B9). If the body lacks any of these nutrients it cannot produce more red blood cells and anaemia will develop. Iron is the most common of these deficiencies. This can occur due to a low-iron diet, heavy periods, during pregnancy, or because of bleeding in the stomach or intestines caused by certain diseases.

How is it treated?

Iron tablets can quickly reverse anaemia. Occasionally iron injections are given but this is less common. The most commonly prescribed supplement is ferrous sulphate, which is taken orally (by mouth) two or three times a day. If ferrous sulphate is not suitable for you because of the side effects, you may be prescribed a different iron tablet called ferrous gluconate. This supplement has fewer side-effects because it contains a lower dose of iron. However, it may take longer for iron levels to be restored.

An iron rich diet can also help - recommended foods include dark-green leafy vegetables, iron-fortified cereals, liver, nuts and apricots.

To diagnose anaemia a blood sample is taken and the blood cells analysed. A GP can also treat underlying causes of anaemia for example by prescribing medicines to combat heavy periods or changing medication if a particular drug is causing stomach-bleeds.

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