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Archive for January, 2023

Iron Deficiency Anemia. By Our Student Pharmacist, Ike Nnyamah.


What is Iron Deficiency Anemia?

Iron Deficiency Anemia (IDA) is a condition in which your body cannot produce enough healthy red blood cells. This occurs because your body does not have enough iron to make hemoglobin, a key component in your red blood cells that carries oxygen. Without enough hemoglobin it is difficult for the organs in your body to get the necessary amount of oxygen.

What causes Iron Deficiency Anemia?

The major reasons why IDA occurs is due to:

  • blood loss
  • lack of enough iron in your diet
  • your body’s inability to absorb the iron in your food

Blood loss is the most common way for people to develop iron-deficiency anemia.

Common causes of blood loss include:

  • Frequent blood donations
  • Bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract due colon cancer, ulcers, or the long-term use of aspirin or NSAIDS
  • Heavy menstrual periods
  • Excessive diagnostic blood testing
  • Hemodialysis


Insufficient iron in your diet can also lead to anemia.

Iron sources from meat are more easily absorbed by the body.

Vegetarians are more likely to suffer from a lack of iron as the iron from plant sources is not as easily absorbed.

Good sources of iron include:

  • Beef
  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Spinach
  • Fortified breakfast cereal
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Potatoes
  • Dark leafy greens

iron sources

Certain foods may decrease your ability to absorb iron such as foods high in calcium or tannates found in tea. However, consumption of these foods alone is unlikely to be the main cause of iron deficiency.

There are several conditions that can cause reduced absorption:

  • Intestinal disorders like celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, or Crohn’s disease
  • Helicobacter pylori infection
  • Bariatric surgery

What are symptoms of anemia?

  • Fatigue
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Pale skin
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Headache
  • Pica (eating objects not typically seen as food like clay, dirt, or wallpaper)
  • Pagophagia (craving for ice which is specific for iron deficiency anemia)
  • Brittle or spoon like nails

How is the condition diagnosed?

In order to diagnose IDA, your doctor will run tests to determine the size of your red blood cells, how much hemoglobin is available in your body, and the amount of iron in your body. Additionally, your doctor may conduct a colonoscopy, an endoscopy, and or an ultrasound to determine any sources of bleeding.

IDA treatment

Iron deficiency anemia is treated by correcting the underlying condition causing your iron deficiency.

Additionally, your provider my prescribe iron supplements to increase the iron stores in your body.

When taking iron supplements remember to try and take the tablets on an empty stomach, and to space them from your antacids to improve absorption. However, the supplements may cause an upset stomach, and constipation which may be fixed by taking the supplements with food and taking a stool softener respectively. Your stools may also turn black, but this is not a harmful side effect. Once iron supplementation begins, patients generally begin to see symptom improvement within a week, but may be on supplementation for a few months to fully replenish the body’s iron stores.