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- Patient Comments: Iron Deficiency - Signs and Symptoms
- Patient Comments: Iron Deficiency - Detection
- Patient Comments: Iron Deficiency - Treatment
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- Iron and iron deficiency facts*
- What is iron and why do we need it?
- What is iron deficiency and why is it a concern?
- What causes iron deficiency?
- Who is most at risk for iron deficiency?
- What are the signs and symptoms of iron deficiency?
- How is iron deficiency diagnosed?
- How is iron deficiency treated?
- Can iron deficiency be prevented?
- Young children (aged 1-5 years)
- Adolescent girls and women of childbearing age
- Pregnant women
- How much iron do I need?
- What are dietary sources of iron?
- Dietary sources of Vitamin C
- Iron overload and hemochromatosis
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How is iron deficiency detected?
Your doctor or healthcare provider will do blood tests to screen for iron deficiency. No single test is used to diagnose iron deficiency. The most common tests for screening are
- Hemoglobin test (a test that measures hemoglobin which is a protein in the blood that carries oxygen)
- Hematocrit test (the percentage of red blood cells in your blood by volume)
These tests show how much iron is in your body. Hemoglobin and hematocrit levels usually aren't decreased until the later stages of iron deficiency, i.e., anemia.
Sometimes other blood tests are used to confirm that anemia is due to iron deficiency. These might include
- Complete blood count (to look at the number and volume of the red blood cells)
- Serum ferritin (a measure of a stored form of iron)
- Serum iron (a measure of the iron in your blood)
- Transferrin saturation (a measure of the transported form of iron)
- Transferrin receptor (a measure of increased red blood cell production)
How is iron deficiency treated?
- If you are found to have an iron deficiency, it is important to see your healthcare provider for treatment. Your treatment will depend on factors such as your age, health, and cause of iron deficiency.
- If your doctor or health care provider thinks that you have iron deficiency she or he may prescribe iron supplements for you to take and then ask that you return after a period to have your hemoglobin or hematocrit tested.
- If your healthcare provider determines that the iron deficiency is due to a diet low in iron, you might be told to eat more iron-rich foods. Your health care provider may also prescribe an iron supplement for you.
Again, it is important to be diagnosed by your healthcare provider because iron deficiency can have causes that aren't related to your diet. Your healthcare provider's recommendations will be specific to your needs.