Young females: iron deficiency anemia is more common than what you think!


Young females: iron deficiency anemia is more common than what you think!

The most common cause of anemia worldwide is iron deficiency. In young females the prevalence of
anemia can range from 30-50% depending on the country and the social background.

If you have iron deficiency anemia you may be suffering from tiredness, lack of energy, shortness of
breath, fast heartbeat, brittle nails, sore tongue and hair loss.

One of the interesting symptoms you may have is craving for substances that are not nutrient carrying,
like ice, dirt or starch!

The reason iron deficiency anemia is common in young females is due to menstruation and it is more
common in those with heavy periods. Blood is rich in iron and one bag of blood contains about 200mg of
iron, while from the iron in the diet we only absorb 1 mg!

Other causes of iron deficiency can be chronic blood loss or dietary (not eating iron rich food) or not
being able to absorb iron due to gut problems or bariatric surgery.

Vegans and vegetarians are at increased risk of iron deficiency (due to elimination of red meat) and they
need more balanced diets to ensure they have adequate iron intake.

Some drugs can also interfere with the absorption of iron like antiacids.

Iron deficiency is also common in pregnant women due to the extra need of the baby for iron and iron
supplements are generally recommended during pregnancy.

Upon visiting the specialist he/she will run some tests to confirm the diagnosis, like complete blood
counts (CBC) to check for anemia and iron stores.

Once it is confirmed, the specialist will offer you iron replacement in the form of tablets or a drip.
Dietary advice is important, this mainly regarding having rich iron food like dark green leafy vegetables,
nuts, dried fruit and red meat. Tea and coffee can reduce iron absorption and having them in
moderation is recommended.

Vitamin C increases the absorption of iron and having lemon or orange juice with the tablets is a
reasonable thing to do.

It is worth mentioning that some patients may have side effects with oral iron such as sickness,
constipation or diarrhea. If so, giving iron through a drip is recommended.

It is important to ensure adequate replacement of iron stores and that can be achieved by compliance
with medications and follow up visits with your specialist.

Sometimes a review by a gynecologist is needed to deal with heavy or irregular periods as reducing
blood loss will eventually result in less iron lost and less need for iron replacement.

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