Iron deficiency anemia: see symptoms, treatments, diagnosis


What is iron deficiency anemia?

The anemia Iron deficiency is characterized by low iron levels in the body, reducing the number and worsening the quality of red blood cells in the blood. It is more common in children and pregnant women.

It is also known as iron deficiency anemia or iron deficiency anemia , this type of anemia can be caused by inadequate diets, adjacent diseases or internal and external bleeding.

Treatment usually consists of dietary re-education and administration of ferric supplements. However, depending on the cause, other medications and even surgical intervention may be necessary.

Although it is not a disease that can lead to death, it can lead to serious complications that can, in the end, lead to death.

According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), iron deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia in the world, corresponding to about 90% of the cases of the disease. In Brazil, in 2006, the prevalence of anemia in children was 20.9% and 29.4% in women.


The cause of iron deficiency anemia is the lack of enough iron in the body to carry out the basic functions that depend on this nutrient.

This absence of iron, in turn, can be caused by a number of factors. Some of them are:

Inadequate food

Having a diet that does not match the necessary iron levels is the most common source of iron deficiency anemia. The causes of this lack of nutrient on the menu are varied, and can have motivations such as:

  • Make restrictive diets aiming at weight loss;
  • Eat little or no meat, without making the appropriate substitution of these foods;
  • Eat little or never eat certain vegetables and dark leafy vegetables (For more information, read the subsection “Eating foods rich in iron”);
  • Suffering from eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia;
  • Not having adequate financial conditions to guarantee variety to the dish;
  • Being a baby, not breastfeeding and taking only cow’s milk, without infant formulas.

Problems that hinder iron absorption

Some diseases have the potential to affect the body’s ability to absorb iron. This means that, even if the person has a balanced diet, his body is unable to obtain the necessary nutritional levels.

In such cases, before treating anemia, it will be necessary to detect and take care of the disease that is causing difficulties in absorbing iron.

These health problems are:

Celiac disease

The celiac disease is an autoimmune problem, that is, where the patient’s own immune system affected destroys healthy body structures. It directly affects the small intestine and basically consists of intolerance to a protein called gluten .

One of the main consequences of celiac disease is a deficiency in the ability to absorb nutrients. Therefore, it is not uncommon for patients with the problem to suffer from complications such as iron deficiency anemia and osteoporosis (this caused by low calcium absorption).

Crohn’s disease

The Crohn’s disease is an inflammation that affects the digestive system. It manifests itself in a chronic form, that is, in the long term, and may extend for weeks, months or even years.

One of the parts most commonly affected by Crohn’s disease is the terminal ileum, which is at the very end of the small intestine. This part of the digestive system, in turn, is precisely responsible for the absorption of nutrients. Therefore, the problem significantly affects the body’s ability to absorb iron, causing anemia.

Ulcerative Colitis

Also known as nonspecific ulcerative colitis, this disease consists of inflammation of the soft tissues – called mucous membranes – that line the inside of the large intestine, creating lesions and bleeding wounds.

As these injuries and hemorrhages happen precisely in the digestive system, the absorption of iron is considerably impaired and the deficiency is intensified by the loss of blood, facilitating the onset of iron deficiency anemia.


Losing blood can also be a way of developing iron deficiency anemia, since bleeding implies the direct loss of red blood cells (for more information, read the section “But what is iron for?”).

Iron deficiency anemia can be established through two types of hemorrhage: acute and chronic.

Acute bleeding is established when there is a sudden, sudden bleeding. This can happen in situations like:

  • Surgeries;
  • Accidents;
  • Deliveries

Chronic hemorrhage is long-term blood loss. It usually happens when there is some internal bleeding, such as those caused by ulcers, hemorrhoids and tumors, for example.

But, after all, what is iron for?

Iron is an element of mineral origin, important for several processes essential to the functioning of the human body. Its main function is to act in the process of producing red blood cells, cells better known as red blood cells.

These structures provide a kind of oxygen transport service for the human body: the heart pumps oxygen-poor blood to the lung, where the gas is captured by the red blood cells, and then the blood returns to the heart to be pumped to the heart. the rest of the body, feeding cells with oxygen.

Both oxygen and carbon dioxide are the raw materials for the body’s breathing process. Without red blood cells, transport of these substances from one organ to another is impossible. Did you feel the responsibility?

The participation of iron in the production of red blood cells is in the formation of hemoglobin, a protein that corresponds to more or less 35% of the weight of each red blood cell.

Hemoglobins are precisely the structures responsible for capturing and carrying the oxygen carried by the red blood cells, in addition to distributing nutrients to several cells and organs of the body.

Without the proper amount of iron, hemoglobins are unable to perform their functions properly and become deficient. The transport of oxygen and carbon dioxide by red blood cells, in turn, also becomes inefficient. As a consequence, the whole body suffers from a lack of iron.

Amount of iron to be ingested daily

The human organism is not able to produce iron on its own.

This means that in order to absorb the amounts of the substance necessary for the body to continue performing its vital functions in the best possible way, it is necessary to eat foods rich in iron daily.

The amounts of iron needed per day vary according to some characteristics, such as sex and weight.

Therefore, the amounts of iron that need to be ingested daily by each person are:

  • Children weighing up to 10 kg: About 1 mg of iron per kilo;
  • Girls over 10 kg who still do not menstruate: 10 mg;
  • Boys over 10 kg: 10 mg;
  • Women of reproductive age: 18 mg;
  • Pregnant women: 30 mg;
  • Adult men: 10 mg.

Why do children and pregnant women need so much iron?

The difference between daily iron values ​​for children, pregnant women and healthy adults is striking. All of this happens because the healthy adult has a kind of “stock” of iron, which in children and pregnant women ends up being spent more quickly.

When absorbed, iron is “packaged” by a protein called ferritin, which stores it in the liver. Half of the iron is in this stock, while the other is in the red blood cells. The curious thing, in fact, is that iron is constantly recycled by the body, that is, the iron already used by red blood cells is not simply excreted.

This recycling happens like this: when a red blood cell dies and is destroyed, the free iron is captured by another protein, called transferrin, which takes it to the bone marrow, where blood cell production takes place. In this way, the iron already used participates in the formation of new red blood cells.

In a healthy adult, for iron to be scarce, it takes a long time without acquiring iron, since it is constantly reused. In the case of children – and pregnant women as well – growth ends up using more iron than in an adult, so the stock runs out more quickly.

Types of iron

The iron that is present in a vegetable and in red meat is not the same. Although the substance present in the two foods performs the same function in the body, their absorption rates are different.

There are two types of iron, which can be more or less absorbed by the body. Come to understand a little more how it works:

Ferro heme

Heme iron is the type of iron that has the highest absorption rate by the human body.

Each time you ingest a certain amount of heme iron, about 20% to 30% of the component will be used to produce hemoglobins. Therefore, for those who are suffering from iron deficiency anemia, foods that contain heme iron are the most recommended.

The main sources of heme iron are animal foods, such as fish, red meat and offal.

Non-heme iron

Non-heme iron is a type of iron that naturally has a lower rate of absorption by the body.

Of all the non-heme iron ingested, only between 5% and 8% is fully utilized by the human body to perform its functions.

This type of iron is present in foods of plant origin, such as leaves and grains, for example.

What about vegetarians?

Vegetarians are considered part of the risk group for iron deficiency anemia precisely because of this difference between heme iron and non-heme iron.

People who do not eat meat end up eating exclusively dishes with low iron absorption. For this reason, it is not uncommon for this group to develop anemia, especially those who throw themselves into the vegetarian diet without paying much attention to the amount of nutrients they are ingesting each day.

So there is no way to escape anemia without eating animal foods? The answer is: of course, yes.

Since those who do not eat meat eat only non-heme iron, it is necessary to work hard to compensate for this difference. A good tactic is to strengthen the menu with the constant presence of legumes (such as beans kid white, black bean, lentil, soybean, chickpea and bean curd, for example), that are rich in iron.

One tip is to try your best to eat foods that are sources of iron when they are fresh. The fresher a particular food is, the greater the body’s use of its minerals.

Another important strategy is to ingest enough vitamin C, which maximizes the absorption of non-heme iron by the body. For this purpose, include foods such as lychee , acerola, lemon, orange, melon, guava, strawberry and pineapple on your shopping list.

Finally, if possible, it is very important to have a nutritionist accompanying a vegetarian diet, to ensure that all necessary nutrients are present in the vegetarian or vegan dish.

Risk factors

The biggest risk factor for developing iron deficiency anemia is not having iron-rich foods in the diet.

Some other conditions can also favor the appearance of the problem. Are they:


During the menstrual cycle, with blood loss, the body also ends up losing significant amounts of iron. That is why the daily amount of iron ingested by those who menstruate should be slightly higher.

The risks can be greater in some specific situations, such as:

  • Having very heavy menstrual flow;
  • Have very long menstrual periods, lasting more than 7 days;
  • Have menstrual cycles less than 24 days.

Being a baby

There is a controversy in the medical community regarding the amounts of iron in breast milk.

Many studies maintain that, between the 4th and the 6th month of the baby’s life, the amount of iron present in the mother’s milk would no longer be enough to, by itself, supply the child’s needs. However, this information is not unanimous among doctors.

While definitive and conclusive studies are not done, some pediatricians prefer to take precautions and recommend iron supplements for babies from 4 months, to be administered until the beginning of solid feeding, thus eliminating the risks of iron deficiency anemia.

Some other characteristics among babies can increase the risk of developing iron deficiency anemia, such as:

  • Being premature;
  • Being below the ideal weight for the age;
  • Babies under 4 months of age who do not breastfeed.

Be pregnant

During pregnancy, iron plays a very special role: transporting oxygen to the fetus and some nutrients necessary for the formation of the structures that house the baby (the so-called embryonic attachments).

For this reason, pregnant women need more iron than the rest of the population, since they need the substance for themselves and also for the fetus. There, it is not uncommon for pregnant women who do not reinforce their iron intake to end up developing iron deficiency anemia.

In a data referring to 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that, on average, 40% of women who had pregnancies that year had suffered from iron deficiency anemia.

The development of iron deficiency anemia is often extremely common among pregnant women with multiple babies.

Bariatric surgery

Popularly known as “stomach reduction surgery”, bariatric surgery can alter the way the body absorbs nutrients and, consequently, constitute a risk factor for iron deficiency anemia.

Having an inadequate diet

Having a diet composed of foods that do not meet the needs of the body is the most common reason for the development of iron deficiency anemia.

Not having a varied and healthy diet, therefore, puts the person at great risk of developing the problem.

Be vegetarian or vegan

The iron that makes up plant-based foods has a considerably lower absorption rate compared to animal-based iron.

For this reason, vegetarians and vegans who do not supply this disadvantage in their diet are at risk for iron deficiency anemia.

Having eating disorders

Iron deficiency anemia is one of the most common consequences of eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia , for example.

People who donate blood frequently can develop iron deficiency anemia due to decreased levels of iron storage in the body.

However, among blood donors, this condition is usually temporary and can be easily avoided by reinforcing the diet with foods rich in iron.


It is common for initial conditions of iron deficiency anemia to be totally (or almost totally) asymptomatic, that is, to have no symptoms.

As the iron deficiency intensifies, the first signs start to appear, such as:

  • Fatigue;
  • Headache, which gets worse when the person is exposed to light or noise;
  • Chest pain;
  • Palpitations;
  • Lack of air;
  • Pallor;
  • Dizziness;
  • Mental confusion;
  • Difficulty concentrating;
  • Loss of color in the nails, which may turn purplish or look “pale”;
  • Cold hands and feet, even when the person is not cold;
  • Tingling and numbness in the legs;
  • Inflammation and pain in the tongue;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Sudden desire to eat things that are not food, such as ice or dirt, for example.

How is the diagnosis of iron deficiency anemia made?

The diagnosis of iron deficiency anemia can be made by a general practitioner . The consultation will consist of a few questions about your symptoms and health history.

Then, the provider will most likely order some blood tests to analyze suspected anemia.

In most cases, a complete blood count is sufficient to confirm the diagnosis of iron deficiency anemia. In special circumstances, some additional tests can be ordered.

Complete blood count

A complete blood count is a blood test that provides an overview of the main blood cells.

Hemoglobin is an important structure for the loading of oxygen and nutrients into the bloodstream, being one of the components of red blood cells. The reference values ​​for these cells in a normal blood count are as follows:

  • For men: greater than 13 g / dL of blood;
  • For women: greater than 12g / dL of blood.

Having hemoglobins below the reference values ​​indicates anemia, although not specifically iron deficiency (there are at least six other types of anemia).

It is worth remembering that the blood count also reveals the morphology of the cells, that is, it is possible to analyze the red blood cells qualitatively , checking information such as cell size (small red blood cells indicate anemia) and the amount of hemoglobin in each red blood cell.


In order for the doctor to be sure that it is iron deficiency anemia, it will be necessary to observe the values ​​of another blood component: ferritin .

Ferritin is a type of protein produced by the liver. The main function of this structure is to store iron in the body, creating a kind of reserve for times when the substance is lacking in the body.

In a blood count of a healthy person, the reference value for ferritin (which is usually identified in the results as “ferric ferritin”) for adults is as follows:

  • For men: from 24 to 336 ng / mL of blood;
  • For women: 11 to 307 ng / mL of blood.

Levels that are below the reference values ​​for ferritin indicate that the iron stock in the body is very low. Thus, this index confirms that the problem that afflicts the patient is iron deficiency anemia.

Other exams

When the diagnosis of iron deficiency anemia is found, it is necessary to investigate its cause. Therefore, the doctor may order tests such as colonoscopy (points to intestinal problems), occult blood in the stools (check for the possibility of intestinal bleeding), digestive endoscopy, among others.

Is iron deficiency anemia curable?

Yes, iron deficiency anemia can be cured . The treatment of the problem itself consists of recovering the body’s iron levels, through dietary re-education and supplementation.


The main form of treatment for iron deficiency anemia is to restore iron levels in the body, through changes in diet and, in some cases, supplementation.

If iron deficiency anemia has some other source, treatment may also involve the cause of the problem.

Iron Supplements

Iron supplements are chemical compounds specially designed to make up for the deficiency of the substance. These supplements should not replace solid foods or be consumed without medical advice.

The doses of the iron supplement that must be ingested by the patient, as well as the duration of treatment, will be defined by the health professional, taking into account variables such as weight, age, sex, history of diseases and severity of anemia.

However, it is possible to state that the treatment usually lasts, on average, from 3 to 6 months. The recommended doses are usually similar to the following values:


The amount

Babies from 6 months to 1 year

1 mg of iron per day OR 1 mg per kilogram of the child daily, depending on the baby’s age and the severity of the anemia.

Children and adolescents up to 60kg

From 2 to 5 mg of iron per day OR from 2 to 5 mg per kilo daily, the daily amount of supplement can be a maximum of 60 mg.


From 60 to 120 mg of iron per day, on average.

In addition, pregnant and lactating women may need special iron supplements, often accompanied by the administration of folic acid supplements (also called vitamin B9), which provides a boost to the immune system.

After the end of the period of iron supplementation prescribed by the doctor, it may be recommended that the patient have a new blood test to see if the iron levels in the body are already normal.

If the results are still not satisfactory, the professional may indicate that the treatment will extend for a longer period.

Types of iron supplements

The iron supplement can be presented in various forms, such as liquid, tablet or capsule versions.

The type of supplement most suitable for your case is one that is recommended by the doctor. Liquid supplements, however, are usually prescribed only for babies and children.

Iron supplements in solid form (capsules, pills and tablets) are more suitable for adults. The form of consumption of this type of supplement varies. Some need to be eaten while fasting while others can be eaten before or during meals.

If you have doubts about the correct way to ingest your iron supplement, it is worth reading the package insert carefully and talking to your doctor.

Side effects of iron supplements

Some people may experience certain side effects when taking iron supplements, such as:

  • Burning, heartburn and stomach pain, especially if the supplement is taken on an empty stomach;
  • Enjoo;
  • Metallic taste in the mouth;
  • Temporary decrease in appetite;
  • Vomiting, in rarer cases.

When these side effects appear, they usually appear a few minutes after taking the iron supplement, and usually do not last more than an hour. These symptoms also tend to go away after the first week of treatment.

Very intense or persistent side effects need to be reported to the doctor responsible for prescribing the food supplement.

Treatment for severe iron deficiency anemia

If the anemia is very severe and / or is at a very advanced stage, additional treatments may be necessary.

Some common treatments for these cases are:

Intravenous iron replacement

Intravenous iron replacement is nothing more than, roughly speaking, the application of iron directly into the vein.

This treatment method can be used in the following situations:

  • When the iron levels in the patient’s body are extremely low;
  • If the patient, for some reason, is unable to take iron supplements;
  • If the person is not responding positively to treatment with iron supplements after a few months;
  • If the patient has problems with iron absorption from the intestine.

Intravenous iron replacement should be performed at a hospital or specialized clinic. Hospitalizations to perform the procedure may or may not be necessary, depending on the severity of the case.

Blood transfusion

In extremely severe and rare cases of iron deficiency anemia, the patient may need to receive red blood cells, which happens through a blood transfusion.

This treatment is generally used for emergency cases and is a palliative solution. As soon as the patient’s condition stabilizes, it will be necessary to supplement with ferric supplements.

Treatment for iron deficiency anemia caused by bleeding

If bleeding is causing iron deficiency anemia, treatment will treat the cause of that bleeding as a priority and stop it as soon as possible.

The treatment for this type of case can be medication (with antibiotics or contraceptives, for example, depending on the cause) or even surgical.

Home treatments for iron deficiency anemia

Alternative treatments for iron deficiency anemia, in fact, consist of a careful diet, adding enough iron to meals.

Remember that the home treatment should always be done in conjunction with the conventional treatment recommended by the doctor, and never replacing it.

Eat foods rich in iron

Making an iron-rich menu is the most effective home treatment to overcome iron deficiency anemia.

Remember that it is important that anemic people prefer sources of heme iron, which has a higher rate of absorption by the body. (For more information, read the “Types of iron” section).

Foods rich in heme iron

Foods rich in heme iron are usually more suitable for patients with iron deficiency anemia because they can be better used by the human body.

Some dishes rich in heme iron are:

  • Bull’s liver;
  • Chicken liver;
  • Oysters;
  • Square;
  • Canned sardines with oil;
  • Salmon;
  • Tuna fish;
  • Mussel;
  • Lamb;
  • Egg yolk;
  • Calf.
Foods rich in non-heme iron

Non-heme iron is usually less used by the body, so it is not usually the main recommendation for those who have iron deficiency anemia.

However, this does not mean that these foods are not important and cannot make a difference in anemia.

Some dishes rich in non-heme iron are:

  • Parsley;
  • Chickpea;
  • Small white beans;
  • Black bean;
  • Lentil;
  • Pea;
  • Tofu;
  • Pumpkin;
  • Carrot;
  • Cress;
  • Sesame;
  • Potato (preferably roasted and peeled).
Beet helps to fight anemia?

This topic is a controversial topic among nutritionists. This is because the beet even has some amount of iron in its composition (about 0.2 mg in 100 g of cooked vegetables and 0.3 mg when raw), but it is not possible to say that it is exactly a rich source of iron.

In addition, the iron present in beets is of the non-heme type, which has a low rate of absorption by the body.

There, some nutritionists recommend the food to patients with iron deficiency anemia, while others claim that treating beet as a significant source of iron for those who are already anemic is not correct.

When in doubt, the best source is always a doctor you trust. Discuss the topic with the health professional who accompanies your case so that you can decide together whether beet is the best choice for you.

Taking vitamin C

Vitamin C is a very important substance for those who are treating iron deficiency anemia because it improves the absorption of iron by the body.

Therefore, it is worth complementing the diet with this component and even taking your ferric supplement tablets or tablets with a good glass of juice from some fruit rich in vitamin C.

Foods rich in vitamin C

Some foods that contain a lot of vitamin C are:

  • Lemon;
  • Acerola;
  • Orange;
  • Strawberry;
  • Guava;
  • Pineapple;
  • Broccoli;
  • Papaya;
  • Melon;
  • Raspberry;
  • Cabbage;
  • Chard;
  • Tomato.

Drinking iron-rich juices

Complementing a balanced diet with the right juices is a delicious, refreshing and effective way to reinforce the amount of iron in the body.

Below, we list some juices that can help you in this endeavor. Check it out:

Lemon juice and parsley

Lemon juice and parsley is not the most pleasant in terms of flavor, but it is extremely beneficial for health. In addition to being rich in iron and vitamin C, it is also antioxidant, that is, it eliminates various toxins from the body.

You will need:

  • A small bundle of parsley;
  • A large lemon;
  • One glass (250mL) of water.

To prepare:

  1. Squeeze the lemon until all the fruit juice comes out;
  2. Wash the parsley under running water;
  3. In a blender, beat the lemon juice with the parsley and water;
  4. Strain the liquid and pour it into a glass. You are ready to drink!
  5. Preferably, drink the juice before meals.
Carrot juice with watercress

In addition to containing enough iron, carrot juice with watercress also has a good amount of fiber and vitamins that help to strengthen the body.

You will need:

  • 2 bundles of watercress;
  • 3 carrots;
  • One glass (250mL) of water.

To prepare:

  1. Peel the carrots and cut them into pieces;
  2. Wash the watercress bundles well under running water and cut them too;
  3. Put the watercress and carrots in a blender with the glass of water and beat well;
  4. Strain the juice and pour it into a glass;
  5. If possible, drink two glasses a day, always before meals.
Carrot, orange and parsley juice

Carrot, orange and parsley juice contains high amounts of iron and vitamin C, as well as being detoxifying.

You will need:

  • A small bundle of parsley;
  • 2 large oranges;
  • 2 carrots;
  • One glass (250mL) of water.

To prepare:

  1. Wash the parsley well and cut it into small pieces. Reserve;
  2. Peel and chop the carrot. Reserve;
  3. With the help of a juicer, make the orange juice, taking full advantage of the fruit’s liquid;
  4. Put the parsley, carrot, orange juice and water in a blender and beat well. You are ready to drink;
  5. If possible, drink one to two glasses a day, always before meals.

Remedies for iron deficiency anemia

Most drug treatments for iron deficiency anemia are done through the administration of iron supplements.

Some remedies that can be prescribed by your doctor for this purpose are:

  • Noripurum ;
  • Ultrafer;
  • Anemifer ;
  • Redoxon ;
  • Ferronil .


NEVER self-medicate or stop using a medication without first consulting a doctor. Only he will be able to tell which medication, dosage and duration of treatment is the most suitable for his specific case. The information contained in this website is only intended to inform, not in any way intended to replace the guidance of a specialist or serve as a recommendation for any type of treatment. Always follow the instructions on the package insert and, if symptoms persist, seek medical or pharmaceutical advice.

Living together

Following medical recommendations, it will be possible to get rid of the symptoms of iron deficiency anemia in a few months. Therefore, it is important to put into practice all the tips of the health professional, however complicated that some of them may seem. After all, changing eating habits is never easy.

If possible, a good way out could be to recruit a nutritionist to facilitate the mission of adding more iron to the menu. Another interesting tip is to search for varied, tasty and fun recipes on websites and video channels focused on healthy gastronomy.

While the condition of iron deficiency anemia is established, it may be recommended to the patient to interrupt the treatment with some drugs that can interfere with the absorption of calcium, if such an interruption is possible. Some of these remedies are:

  • Cholestyramine ;
  • Neomicin;
  • Urinary quinolones;
  • Tetraciclinas;
  • Calcium replenishers;
  • Magnesium replenishers;
  • Zinc replenishers.

In addition, it may also be recommended that the patient suspend or reduce the consumption of coffee, tea, wine and fibers, which also hinder calcium absorption.


With proper treatment, the prospects for recovery from iron deficiency anemia are excellent. The prospect is that hemoglobin levels in the blood will return to normal after 2 months of treatment, in most cases. After that, it takes a few more months for the human body’s iron stores to return to normal.

However, it is necessary to devote some special attention to the causes of anemia. If the problem is caused by another disease, the prognosis will depend directly on the evolution of the causative agent.

The doctor may order blood tests to check your iron levels 3 months after starting treatment and 3 months after ending treatment. Thereafter, the condition should be monitored at least once a quarter in the year following the anemia episode.


Iron deficiency anemia that is not properly treated can end up generating some consequences and serious health problems.

Are they:

Low immunity

When we talk about immunity, we are referring to the body’s defense mechanisms, responsible for blocking the development of infectious agents that can cause disease.

Some nutrients are responsible for strengthening the rapid responses of the immune system, including iron. Therefore, a picture of iron deficiency anemia can cause low immunity.

Having low immunity means that the body is more susceptible to serious infections, since the immune system is not strong enough to fight them.

Heart problems

One of the main functions of iron in the body is to enable the transport of oxygen through the bloodstream.

When iron levels are too low, the heart needs to work a little faster than normal to compensate for this decrease in oxygen transport. Thus, the heart muscle beats faster.

This process of altering the heart rhythm can end up causing several serious problems, which can eventually lead to death.

Among the diseases that can be caused by this acceleration in the rhythm of the heart, are:

Cardiac arrhythmias

cardiac arrhythmia is a problem that basically consists in changing the rhythm of the heartbeat.

It is usually characterized by symptoms such as:

  • Acceleration of heartbeat, in cases of arrhythmia caused by iron deficiency anemia;
  • Chest discomfort;
  • Dizziness;
  • Lack of air;
  • Excessive sweat;
  • Pallor;
  • Fainting, in more severe cases.

Arrhythmia, in turn, can cause serious problems, such as:

  • Cerebrovascular Accidents (CVAs);
  • Cardiac insufficiency;
  • Heart attack;
  • Death.

Cardiac insufficiency

Also known as congestive heart failure, this problem is characterized by the inability of the heart to pump enough blood to all organs in the body. It can happen due to the excessive effort of the cardiac muscle in cases of iron deficiency anemia.

Its main symptoms are:

  • Shortness of breath, both at rest and during physical exertion;
  • Cough;
  • Swollen abdomen;
  • Swelling in the feet, ankles and hands;
  • Fatigue;
  • Insomnia;
  • Unjustified weight gain;
  • Difficulty concentrating;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Enjoo;
  • Vomiting;
  • Changes in heart rate.

Heart failure is a serious phenomenon that can lead to death. In addition, it can also cause kidney failure, causing the need for a hemodialysis process.

Increased heart size

This problem goes by the clinical name of cardiomegaly . It happens when, due to excessive muscle effort, the heart swells and loses the ability to pump all the blood that the body needs.

Its main symptoms are:

  • Lack of air;
  • Palpitations;
  • Extreme fatigue;
  • Dizziness;
  • Fainting;
  • High blood pressure;
  • Difficulty urinating.

Cardiomegaly is a very serious health problem and requires complicated treatment. It can lead to death.

Developmental delay

In children and adolescents, the lack of adequate amounts of iron can delay the development of psychomotor and cognitive skills and also delay growth.

In addition, in this group, iron deficiency anemia can also cause severe immune deficiencies, leaving children susceptible to infections that would be easily preventable in another situation.

Pregnancy complications

Iron is an essential component to ensure the development of the fetus. Therefore, when the mother suffers from iron deficiency anemia, some complications may end up affecting the baby.

In cases of severe anemia that are not adequately treated, the child may end up being born below the ideal weight or even premature.

However, it is rare that this type of complication happens among pregnant women who are undergoing medical follow-up, as iron deficiencies are usually detected in the first prenatal exams.

Can anemia turn into leukemia?

No , anemia cannot become leukemia .

The popular belief that an untreated anemia can eventually develop into cancer comes from a small confusion: anemia is one of the first symptoms in most cases of leukemia.

So, because of that, the belief arises that leukemia is the result of anemia, when, in fact, it is the opposite.

So even if you have had iron deficiency anemia for many months, rest assured about this aspect: there is no chance that your problem will become leukemia.

Can iron deficiency anemia kill?

Not directly. Nobody dies of anemia.

However, the complications caused by a condition of iron deficiency anemia – especially those that affect the functioning of the heart – can, indeed , cause death.

How to prevent iron deficiency anemia?

The main way to prevent iron deficiency anemia is to maintain a balanced and healthy diet, composed of foods rich in iron and respecting the daily amounts of the substance that need to be consumed in each age group. (For more information, read the section “Amount of iron to be ingested daily”).

It is also recommended to have blood tests to check the amounts of iron in the body at least once every 2 years, especially if you lose blood monthly through menstruation.

Prevention of iron deficiency anemia in babies

Although they are not in contact with solid foods, babies under 4 months of age have access to the most complete food in the world: breast milk.

Until the 4 months of age of the child, studies show that the mother’s milk is perfectly capable of meeting the iron needs of the small organism without any problem. So if your child is breastfeeding, there is no need to worry too much about it.

Babies under 4 months of age who do not breastfeed will need to feed using infant formulas. There is an infant formula for each stage of baby’s development, with different levels of each nutrient, including iron. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to the label and ask the pediatrician for guidance on the best formula for your child.

Children who do not breastfeed need infant formula. It is not recommended to replace breast milk with cow’s milk, which can end up hindering the baby’s development.

From 4 months, some pediatricians may recommend iron supplements to ensure that the baby is not at risk of developing iron deficiency anemia.

As this topic is controversial among the medical community, only a trusted pediatrician can define what is the best strategy for preventing iron deficiency anemia between 4 and 6 months of your child, when solid foods will become part of his diet.

Iron deficiency anemia is a health problem that, although it has serious consequences, can easily be overcome with proper treatment.

Do you know someone who suffers from anemia? Share this article and help the information reach those who need it!