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The dangers of iron deficiency anaemia

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Iron deficiency affects more than 2 billion people worldwide,2 however, because symptoms can be mistaken for just tiredness, Auckland Iron Clinic explained that iron deficiency can go unrecognised and undiagnosed until a later stage. “Iron deficiency anaemia is the later stage of iron deficiency. It affects haemoglobin levels, a protein in red blood cells that helps carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.”1  

According to the National Institutes of Health, people with mild or moderate iron deficiency anaemia may not have any symptoms. “More serious iron deficiency anaemia may cause common symptoms of anaemia, such as tiredness, shortness of breath, or chest pain. Other symptoms include fatigue, dizziness or light-headedness, cold hands and feet, and pale skin.”3  

The signs and symptom of iron deficiency vary depending on: 

  • The severity of the anaemia. 
  • How quickly it develops. 
  • The patient’s age. 
  • The patient’s current health status. 

Left untreated, iron deficiency anaemia can make patients more susceptible to illness and infection, as a lack of iron affects the body's natural defence system, the immune system.  

Auckland Iron Clinic warned that iron deficiency anaemia can lead to health problems including: 

  • Heart problems. “Iron deficiency may lead to a rapid or irregular heartbeat. Your heart must pump more blood to compensate for the lack of oxygen carried in your blood when you’re anaemic. This can lead to an enlarged heart or heart failure.” 
  • Problems during pregnancy. “In pregnant women, severe iron deficiency anaemia has been linked to premature births and low birth weight babies. But the condition is preventable in pregnant women who receive iron supplements as part of their prenatal care.” 
  • Growth problems. “In infants and children, severe iron deficiency can lead to anaemia as well as delayed growth and development. Additionally, iron deficiency anaemia is associated with an increased susceptibility to infections.”1

Fortunately iron-deficiency anaemia is treatable. Depending on the cause, a doctor will recommend iron-rich foods, supplements, medicine, or a combination of these.4  

REFERENCES 

  1. https://www.aucklandironclinic.co.nz/feeling-tired-could-it-be-iron-deficiency/ 
  2. https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMra1401038?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori%3Arid%3Acrossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub++0pubmed 
  3. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/anemia/iron-deficiency-anemia 
  4. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/iron-deficiency-anemia-untreated 

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