Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
 

Iron-Deficiency Anemia

Conditons A-Z - Iron-Deficiency Anemia

What is iron-deficiency anemia?

The most common cause of anemia is iron deficiency. Iron is needed to form hemoglobin, part of red blood cells that carry oxygen and remove carbon dioxide (a waste product) from the body. Iron is mostly stored in the body in the hemoglobin. About 30 percent of iron is also stored as ferritin and hemosiderin in the bone marrow, spleen, and liver.

What causes iron-deficiency anemia?

Iron-deficiency anemia may be caused by the following:

What are the symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia?

The following are the most common symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

The symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia may resemble other blood conditions or medical problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

How is iron-deficiency anemia diagnosed?

Iron-deficiency anemia may be suspected from general findings on a complete medical history and physical examination, such as complaints of tiring easily, abnormal paleness or lack of color of the skin, or a fast heartbeat (tachycardia). Iron-deficiency anemia is usually discovered during a medical examination through a blood test that measures the amount of hemoglobin (number of red blood cells) present, and the amount of iron in the blood. In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for iron-deficiency anemia may include the following:

Treatment for iron-deficiency anemia

Specific treatment for iron-deficiency anemia will be determined by your doctor based on:

Treatment may include:

How does the body process iron?

Iron is present in many foods and absorbed into the body through the stomach. During this process of absorption, oxygen combines with iron and is transported into the plasma portion of blood by binding to transferrin. From there, iron and transferrin are used in the production of hemoglobin, stored in the liver, spleen, and bone marrow, and utilized as needed by all body cells.

The following is a list of foods that are good sources of iron. Always consult your doctor regarding the recommended daily iron requirements for your particular situation.

Iron-Rich FoodsQuantityApproximate Iron
Content
(milligrams)
Oysters 3 ounces 13.2
Beef liver 3 ounces 7.5
Prune juice 1/2 cup 5.2
Clams 2 ounces 4.2
Walnuts 1/2 cup 3.75
Ground beef 3 ounces 3.0
Chickpeas 1/2 cup 3.0
Bran flakes 1/2 cup 2.8
Pork roast 3 ounces 2.7
Cashew nuts 1/2 cup 2.65
Shrimp 3 ounces 2.6
Raisins 1/2 cup 2.55
Sardines 3 ounces 2.5
Spinach 1/2 cup 2.4
Lima beans 1/2 cup 2.3
Kidney beans 1/2 cup 2.2
Turkey, dark meat 3 ounces 2.0
Prunes 1/2 cup 1.9
Roast beef 3 ounces 1.8
Green peas 1/2 cup 1.5
Peanuts 1/2 cup 1.5
Potato 1 1.1
Sweet potato 1/2 cup 1.0
Green beans 1/2 cup 1.0
Egg 1 1.0

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