Iron is very important in maintaining many body functions, including the production of hemoglobin, the molecule in the blood that carries oxygen. If the body doesn’t have sufficient hemoglobin, tissues and muscles don’t get enough oxygen to function effectively. This leads to a condition called anemia.
Iron deficiency is very common, and approximately 10 million people are iron deficient in the United StatesREF. Inadequate iron intake due to poor diet or restrictive diets can lead to iron deficiency, as well as numerous other underlying diseases and risk factors.
Anemia is a common blood disorder, and affects more than 1.6 billion people globally and over 3 million people in the U.S. Individuals experience anemia when their blood lacks sufficient healthy red blood cells to effectively carry oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body.
Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anemia worldwide, afflicting several hundred million people. Iron deficiency anemia occurs when the body lacks adequate iron in the blood. Severe iron-deficiency anemia may cause fatigue or tiredness, shortness of breath, or chest pain.
A wide range of chronic conditions can contribute to the risk of iron deficiency and the resulting anemia, including:
Patients undergoing oncology treatments
Excessive blood loss
The risk of anemia increases with age
Individuals with iron-deficiency anemia often report being too tired to get out of bed and shortness of breath when engaged in daily activities. Severe anemia prompts the body to compensate by increasing cardiac output, leading to palpitations and sweatiness and heart failure. Undiagnosed or untreated iron deficiency anemia may cause depression, increased risk of infection, development delays in children, and pregnancy complications. Severe or chronic anemia has long term, devastating impact, and can lead to life-threatening complications and even death.
Treatment options for patients with iron deficiency anemia depend on what causes it. Treatment can involve dietary changes, iron supplements, dietary supplements, medications, blood transfusions and surgery. For patients with chronic diseases, treatment of the underlying disease can improve the anemia. Under some circumstances, such as chronic kidney disease, patients may be prescribed erythropoiesis-stimulating agent (ESA) injections to stimulate the bone marrow to produce more red blood cells.