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Anaemia is a condition in which there is lower than normal red blood cells in the blood. Low red blood cell also means that there is no enough haemoglobin available to carry sufficient oxygen from the lungs to supply the entire body. The normal range for haemoglobin for men is 13.5-17. 5g/dl blood while it is 12.0-15.5g/dl blood for women. Anaemia is said to be severe when haemoglobin level is below 9g/dl blood.

Anaemia is of different types but the most common is iron deficiency anaemia.

Iron deficiency anaemia is a type of anaemia that occurs when there is lower than normal level of iron in the bone marrow and the liver. Iron is required to produce haemoglobin (the core component of red blood cells that carries oxygen), so when iron is not sufficient to produce haemoglobin, anaemia sets in.



Common causes of iron deficiency anaemia are dietary deficiency, unusually high iron requirement and poor absorption of iron from the intestine.


Dietary deficiency

The normal daily requirement of iron intake in men is about 1-2mg and for women is 3mg. Children during their period of rapid growth require more iron than adults. Normally, not all iron that is consumed is absorbed, there is relative inefficiency of iron absorption. This is why iron deficiency anaemia is common and the likelihood of its occurrence increases with reduction in daily iron diet. Those with higher risk are vegetarians, those on weight reducing diet and children who take more of milk because milk is a poor source of iron.

Rich dietary source of iron are liver, sunflower seeds, nuts, grains, beans, beef, green leafy vegetables and dark chocolate.


High requirement

Certain conditions increases iron requirement and if iron intake is not commensurate with the requirement, anaemia will set in. For instance in pregnancy, iron requirement are increased both for fetal growth and the mother. Also any condition that causes blood loss will increase iron demand, for example heavy menstrual bleeding, peptic ulcer, haemorrhoids or cancer of the digestive tract.


Poor absorption

Iron absorption may be reduced in abnormalities of the stomach and the small intestine. Patients who have surgeries that involve the removal of part of the stomach or the intestine can also experience reduced iron absorption.



An individual with iron deficiency anaemia may not show any sign initially but as the anaemia worsens, the following signs and symptoms may be observed:

  • Extreme tiredness.
  • General body weakness and lack of energy.
  • Chest pain and/or shortness of breath.
  • Breathlessness on exertion.
  • Fast heart rate and palpitations.
  • Pail skin and brittle nail.
  • Poor appetite.



Treatment will depend on the cause and severity of the anaemia. Treatment includes:

Dietary adjustment: Taking food high in iron is usually prescribed to those having mild anaemia. Such foods include liver, sunflower seeds, nuts, grains, beans, beef, green leafy vegetables and dark chocolate. Food rich in vitamin C are also advised as vitamin C aids the absorption of iron.


Dietary Supplement: Mild to moderate anaemia can be treated by prescribing iron supplement. This should be taken as prescribed to prevent Overdose.


Treatment to arrest bleeding: Appropriate treatment for the cause(s) of the bleeding. For example if bleeding is caused by tumor, surgery may be required and in cases of excessive menstrual bleeding, birth pills may be prescribed.

In severe anaemia, a more urgent treatment is required which could be blood transfusion and iron therapy. In blood transfusion, red blood cells is being Infused in to the vein while iron therapy is either given intravenously or intramuscularly.


Prevention of iron deficiency anaemia

Iron deficiency anaemia can be prevented by:

  • Eating diet high in iron and vitamin C.
  • Taking iron supplement as prescribed.
  • Treating any cause of bleeding early.
  • Those who are prone to iron deficiency anaemia should regularly go for haemoglobin evaluation.





Anemia. (2015).


Anemia or iron deficiency. (2015, April 8).


Heavy menstrual bleeding. (2015, August 28).


Iron deficiency anaemia. (2014, March 26).


Iron deficiency anaemia. (2014, November 24).


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