Iron deficiency anaemia is the commonest type of anaemia. If you have anaemia, consult your doctor to confirm if it is due to iron deficiency. Treatment of iron deficiency anaemia depends on its cause and severity, and includes changes in diet, iron supplements, medicines, and surgery. The aim of treatment is to correct the underlying cause and optimise the level of red blood cells, haemoglobin, and iron in your body.
If you have severe anaemia, your doctor may recommend blood transfusion, iron injections, or intravenous (IV) iron therapy. For these treatments, admission to a hospital is needed. Blood transfusion is a safe, common procedure and it can correct anaemia immediately. However it is a short-term treatment and iron supplements and treatment of the cause of your anaemia are needed. Iron therapy, that is administration of iron into a muscle (intramuscular) or an IV line in one of your blood vessels may be done if your anaemia is severe. Parenteral iron therapy (IV or IM) has some safety concerns and is usually reserved for people who cannot take oral iron supplements or who need immediate treatment for iron-deficiency anaemia.
Iron helps in the formation of haemoglobin (the protein inside the red blood cells) which helps to carry oxygen to various tissues and cells in the body. You may be given iron supplements to restore the haemoglobin and iron levels to normal levels as quickly as possible. However, with oral iron supplements, haemoglobin and iron levels can take months to be restored back to normal levels.
Take iron supplements as recommended by your doctor as excess iron can be harmful. Iron supplements like other medicines should be kept out of the reach of children to prevent accidental poisoning and toxicity. Some of the side effects of iron supplements include dark stools, constipation, stomach irritation, and heartburn.
People with iron deficiency anaemia are recommended to take diets rich in iron. Red meat, especially beef and liver are good sources of iron. Other animal products such as chicken, turkey, pork, fish, and shellfish also are good sources of iron. Iron from animal food products is better absorbed than from non-meat foods. Some of the non-meat foods that are good sources of iron are:
Vitamin C improves the absorption of iron the body. Some foods which are rich in vitamin C include green and other coloured vegetables and fruits, especially citrus fruits (such as oranges, grapefruits, and tangerines). Other fruits which are rich in vitamin C are goose berry, kiwi fruit, strawberries, and cantaloupes. Some vegetables which are a good source of vitamin C are broccoli, peppers, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, cabbage, potatoes, and leafy green vegetables such as turnip greens and spinach.
Iron deficiency anaemia can occur due to slow bleeding in the body from sources such as bleeding ulcer, piles, polyp or cancerous tumour in your intestine, or even excessive menstrual bleeding. You doctor will try to determine the cause of blood loss and treat it accordingly.
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