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What Is Iron Deficiency Anemia and How to Get Tested?

By the team at Speedoc,
 
July 25, 2022

First, what’s anemia?

Anemia is a disorder of the blood that results in an inadequate supply of oxygen to the peripheral tissues, primarily due to changes in the red blood cells. There are several types of anemia including pernicious anemia, megaloblastic anemia, hypochromic anemia, and iron deficiency anemia.

What’s the most common type of anemia?

The most frequent kind of anemia is iron-deficiency anemia, which happens when your body does not have enough iron to produce hemoglobin (protein found in red blood cells that transports oxygen to the surrounding tissues).

Symptoms of iron deficiency anemia

Someone with iron deficiency anemia may be asymptomatic at first, to an extent that it goes unrecognised. However, when the body's iron deficiency reaches an unprecedented level leading to lack of nutrition and oxygen to the tissues, the signs and symptoms may worsen.

Iron deficiency anemia has some classic signs and symptoms, including:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Pale skin
  • General feeling of weakness
  • Tongue inflammation or discomfort
  • Headache, dizziness, or lightheadedness

What causes iron deficiency anemia

Iron deficiency anemia may occur when your body does not have enough iron to create hemoglobin.

Hemoglobin is an important component of the red blood cells that not only provides blood its red colour but allows red blood cells to transport oxygenated blood throughout the body.

Loss of blood

Red blood cells in the blood contain hemoglobin which has iron as its main component. If you lose blood due to a traumatic injury, you lose some iron too. Blood loss during menstruation in women, especially in case of heavy periods, can also cause iron deficiency anemia.

Iron deficiency anemia can also be caused by slow, chronic blood loss within the body, such as from a gastric ulcer, a hiatal hernia, a colon tumour, or hemorrhages.

Regular use of various over-the-counter pain medications, particularly aspirin, might result in gastrointestinal bleeding which may lead to lower iron levels in the body.

A diet lacking in iron

Your body obtains iron daily from the foods you consume; if you ingest insufficient iron, your body may become iron deficient over time.

Meat, green leafy vegetables, eggs, and iron-fortified foods are examples of iron-rich foods. Infants and children, especially, require iron in their meals for optimal growth and development.

A lack of iron absorption

Iron from meals is absorbed into your circulation through your small intestine. An intestinal problem, such as celiac disease, can cause iron deficiency anemia. It reduces your intestine's capacity to absorb maximum nutrients from digested food.

Pregnancy

Iron deficiency anemia may develop in many pregnant women who lack iron supplementation because their iron stores must service an increased blood volume and provide hemoglobin for the growing fetus as well.

How to get tested for iron deficiency anemia?

There are several blood tests that can be used to diagnose iron deficiency anemia.

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Complete blood count (CBC) test

A complete blood count (CBC) is typically the first test used by a doctor. A complete blood count (CBC) determines the number of cellular or cell-related elements in the blood, such as:

  • Red blood cells (RBCs)
  • White blood cells (WBCs)
  • Platelets
  • Hematocrit
  • Hemoglobin

A CBC test is frequently conducted as part of a standard health examination. This test is beneficial for diagnosing this kind of anemia since most iron-deficient people are unaware of it. Your doctor may conduct further blood tests to establish your anemia's severity and the type of anemia to identify treatment options.

Serum Iron Test

The amount of iron in the blood is measured by a serum iron test. Low blood iron levels may be a sign of iron deficiency. This is a generic test, and medical professionals may utilise other tests to learn more about the causes and circumstances causing low levels.

Test for Ferritin

The level of ferritin in the blood is determined by a ferritin blood test. Ferritin is a protein that aids in storing iron in the body, and low ferritin levels imply poor iron storage.

Doctors can determine how much iron is stored in the body by looking at ferritin levels. Low ferritin levels signal iron deficiency and low iron storage.

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Total Iron Binding Capacity

A blood test called total iron binding capacity (TIBC) measures the blood's iron levels. In order to look for indicators of anemia, doctors may administer this test together with transferrin testing.

When TIBC levels are high, low iron levels in the blood from iron deficiency anemia may be present. In several other types of anemia, such as anemia caused by the oxidation of red blood cells, TIBC levels may be low.

Transferrin Receptor Soluble

A protein called transferrin allows iron to connect to it and enter cells. To ensure that iron can enter the cells, the body must have enough transferrin.

In an effort to make the available iron in the body more available when levels of iron are low, the body produces more transferrin.

A soluble transferrin receptor (sTfR) test can be used by doctors to screen for high levels of transferrin, which may be an indication of iron deficiency anemia.

Peripheral Smear

A peripheral smear is an analysis of a little sample of blood using a microscope. Under a microscope, red blood cells from a person with iron deficiency anemia will be smaller and whiter than usual.

How is iron-deficiency anemia treated?

The severity of your iron deficiency anemia and what caused it will determine how you are treated. Most cases of this illness are caused by a shortage of iron in your diet or issues with your body's absorption of the iron you ingest.

  1. Iron supplements can help replenish iron levels.
  2. A balanced diet is an excellent way to alleviate nutritional deficiencies. Consume more dark green and leafy veggies, red meat, dry fruits, nuts, and iron-enriched cereals.

The bottom line

Every day, your body expels millions of red blood cells from circulating and replaces them with new ones. Anemia can occur when this mechanism is interrupted. A differential diagnostic test such as CBC can help a doctor discover anemia. Treatment varies, so do consult a doctor before trying any of the treatments mentioned.

Speedoc can help with iron deficiency anemia! Download the Speedoc app, call us at +65 6909 7799 or email us at clinic.sg@speedoc.com to learn more.