Iron Deficiency Anemia
Iron deficiency anemia is a low red blood cell count or hemoglobin level caused by too little iron in the body. Hemoglobin is a molecule in the red blood cells that carries oxygen to cells throughout the body.
What is going on in the body?
Though anemia has many causes, iron deficiency is the most common. Iron is a very important part of the hemoglobin molecule. When the body does not have enough iron stored, too little hemoglobin is made to fill the red blood cells. The size and number of red blood cells decreases. This cuts down on the body's ability to carry oxygen to the tissues.
What are the causes and risks of the condition?
Iron deficiency anemia occurs when iron intake cannot keep pace with iron loss. This can be due to:
blood loss, such as gastrointestinal bleeding or heavy menstrual bleeding
decreased ability to absorb iron from the diet, which can occur with bowel disorders
growth spurts, which increase the body's need for iron
low intake of iron in the diet
pregnancy and breastfeeding, which increase a woman's need for iron
taking certain medications that interfere with iron, such as antacids
Women of childbearing age, pregnant women, children, and teens are at the greatest risk for this condition.