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Iron Deficiency Anemia

What is Iron Deficiency Anemia?

Iron deficiency leads to anemia when the body lacks sufficient iron to make adequate hemoglobin. Without enough hemoglobin, red blood cells are smaller and paler than normal, and they cannot transport adequate oxygen to tissues throughout the body. Iron-deficiency anemia is an advanced stage of iron deficiency. In iron deficiency, the amount of iron stored away for later use is reduced but has no effect on functional iron– the iron needed to meet the daily needs of an individual. If the body requires increased iron (due to a rapid growth spurt, for example), a person with inadequate stored iron has no reserves to use. International adoptees are at risk for iron deficiency because they often have diets low in iron prior to adoption. Even if they do not have an iron deficiency upon adoption, they may have low iron stores. Once adopted, their improved diet, along with added activity and love and attention from a family, usually leads to a growth spurt in the initial period at home. The body calls upon the inadequate stores and then becomes iron deficient.

Cause of Iron Deficiency Anemia

Anemia can be caused by multiple factors, including blood loss, inability to absorb iron, and factors during the mother’s pregnancy. A lack of iron in the diet can also cause anemia as the body regularly gets iron from food. If too little iron is consumed, the body can become iron deficient over time. Institutionalized children are at particular risk for iron-deficiency anemia due to the possibilities of poor maternal prenatal care, poor maternal health, low birth weight, bottle-feeding with formula that is not iron-fortified, tea drinking, a diet low in iron-containing foods, and intestinal parasites.

Symptoms of Iron Deficiency Anemia

Diagnosis of Iron Deficiency Anemia

The diagnosis of iron-deficiency anemia will be suggested by appropriate history (e.g.,recent growth spurt following adoption), and by such diagnostic tests as a hemoglobin, hematocrit, low serum ferritin, a low serum iron level, an elevated serum transferring, and a high total iron binding capacity (TIBC).

Implications of Iron Deficiency Anemia

Iron deficiency anemia can impact neurological development by decreasing learning ability, lowering IQ, altering motor functions, causing lethargy that impacts learning, and stunting physical growth. It is also associated with a greater incidence of lead poisoning and an increased susceptibility to infections. Infants and young children who become severely iron deficient may not be able to recover to normal iron levels, even with iron supplementation.

Treatment of Iron Deficiency Anemia

Oral iron supplementation can be used for both prevention and treatment of iron deficiency anemia. The most common iron supplement is ferrous sulfate, which can be obtained over-the-counter. Oral iron supplements are usually best absorbed by an empty stomach. However, because iron can irritate your child’s stomach, he may need to take the supplements with food. Your doctor may also recommend that your child take iron supplements with orange juice or with a vitamin C tablet, as vitamin C increases iron absorption. It usually takes several months of iron supplementation to correct the iron deficiency. Increasing dietary intake of iron can help prevent iron deficiency anemia.

Food Sources of Iron

Chicken liver, beef, turkey, chicken, pork loin, tuna, halibut, blue crab, oysters, clams, shrimp, fortified cereals, oatmeal, soybeans, lentils and other beans, molasses, tofu, spinach, chard, thyme, raisins, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds. Pair with vitamin-c rich foods for optimal absorption.

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