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Can inadequate iron cause anemia?
Absolutely! As a matter of fact, iron deficiency is a very common cause of anemia. This is because iron is major component of hemoglobin and essential for its proper function. Chronic blood loss due to any reason is the main cause of low iron level in the body as it depletes the body's iron stores to compensate for the ongoing loss of iron. Anemia that is due to low iron levels is called iron deficiency anemia.
Young women are likely to have low grade iron deficiency anemia because of the loss of blood each month through normal menstruation. This is generally without any major symptoms as the blood loss is relatively small and temporary.
Another common reason for iron deficiency anemia can be due to recurring or small ongoing bleeding, for instance from colon cancer or from stomach ulcers. Stomach ulcer bleeding may be induced by medications, even very common over-the-counter drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). Slow and chronic oozing from these ulcers can lead to loss of iron. Gradually, this could result in anemia. In infants and young children, iron deficiency anemia is most often due to a diet lacking iron.
Interpretation of CBC may lead to clues to suggest this type of anemia. For instance, iron deficiency anemia usually presents with low mean corpuscular volume (microcytic anemia) in addition to low hemoglobin.