Iron Deficiency Anemia

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Iron Deficiency Anemia
Iron Deficiency Anemia

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Video: Iron Deficiency Anemia, All you need to know! 2023, January

Iron deficiency anemia

Iron deficiency anemia results from the lack of iron availability in the body. This can be caused by blood loss or chronic bleeding or an increased need for iron. However, it can also have other causes. The iron deficiency leads to a restricted transport of oxygen and a reduced oxygen supply to the organs. This manifests itself accordingly, among other things by paleness, tiredness and reduced performance. Various other signs appear.


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  • What are the causes of iron deficiency anemia?
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  • How is the treatment carried out?
  • Whom can I ask?
  • How are the costs going to be covered?


What are the causes of iron deficiency anemia?

Iron is involved in many processes, including the formation of the red blood pigment (hemoglobin) - and the transport of oxygen. The red blood pigment can bind oxygen through its iron components and release it again in the body tissue. Hemoglobin is an important component of the red blood cells (erythrocytes), which are used to transport oxygen.

If the iron requirement for the production of the red blood pigment cannot be sufficiently covered - as in iron deficiency anemia - this affects the oxygen transport or supply.

To an iron deficiency anemia occurs, inter alia, by:

  • Blood loss / chronic bleeding (e.g. bleeding in the gastrointestinal area, for example in connection with gastrointestinal ulcers or cancer, heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding, childbirth)
  • Increased iron requirement (e.g. growth in children and adolescents, pregnant women)
  • Insufficient absorption (e.g. in celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease)
  • Insufficient intake through nutrition / malnutrition (e.g. one-sided iron-poor diet)

A combination of several causes is also possible.

What are the symptoms?

Iron deficiency anemia shows itself through, among other things

  • Pallor (skin, mucous membrane).
  • In addition, complaints such as weakness, reduced performance, tiredness, concentration and learning difficulties, headaches, dizziness, sleep disorders, etc. can occur. Heart palpitations and a rapid increase in pulse rate (during exercise) can also occur.

Other physical signs can include:

  • Inflammation of the lining of the mouth (stomatitis), inflammatory changes in the lining of the tongue (glossitis)
  • Cracks in the corners of the mouth (angular rhinitis), dry skin, hollow nails, brittle nails and hair, hair loss.

Iron deficiency anemia develops slowly and over a longer period of time (months, years).

How is the diagnosis made?

The iron deficiency can vary in severity. The doctor clarifies the causes and severity of the anemia through the diagnosis. Doctor-patient discussion, physical examination and laboratory diagnostics are carried out, laboratory values ​​are determined, e.g.

  • Blood count
  • Ferritin
  • Soluble transferrin receptor
  • Reticulocyte hemoglobin

Eating habits provide clues. Taking certain medications can also be essential. Any underlying illnesses (e.g. chronic inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, tumor disease) or chronic blood loss (e.g. with regard to heavy or long-lasting menstrual bleeding, nosebleeds) are also clarified. Other forms of anemia can also be the cause of the symptoms. In the course of the diagnosis, further examinations may be necessary (e.g. gastroscopy, colonoscopy).

Note Certain people have an increased iron requirement (e.g. growing young people, pregnant women). However, this does not mean that there is an iron deficiency and that an iron supplement must generally be taken. Your doctor will inform you whether iron intake is necessary or whether a healthy diet (with sufficient iron intake) is sufficient. During pregnancy, the blood values ​​are checked several times. Anemia due to iron deficiency can therefore be detected and treated early on. Iron also plays an important role in the nutrition of infants (complementary food). See Infant Nutrition for more information.

How is the treatment carried out?

The aim of the therapy is to stop iron or blood loss and to supply sufficient iron. The therapy consists - depending on the cause (s) - primarily of:

  • Nutritional advice
  • Administration of iron preparations (medicinal iron substitution by taking appropriate tablets) or parenterally (i.e. bypassing the gastrointestinal tract by infusion)
  • Treatment of the underlying disease, hemostasis, etc.

Control examinations serve to check the progress of therapy. Depending on the severity of the "iron deficiency", the therapy (iron substitution) must be continued for months.

More information about iron in the diet.

Whom can I ask?

The contact persons are general practitioners and internists. Depending on the cause or underlying disease, doctors from other specialties may be involved. Dieticians and specialized doctors can provide nutritional advice. Further information can be found under Nutrition: Advice & Therapy.

How are the costs going to be covered?

The costs of diagnosis and therapy are usually covered by the responsible health insurance company. Your doctor will generally settle accounts directly with your health insurance provider. However, you may have to pay a deductible with certain health insurance providers. You can also use a doctor of your choice (ie doctor without a health insurance contract) or a private outpatient clinic. For more information, see Visit a Doctor: Costs and Deductibles.

Information on costs for a hospital stay can be found under What does a hospital stay cost?

You can find information on cost coverage for care by dieticians under health professions.

For information on the prescription fee, see The Prescription.

For information on the respective provisions, please contact your health insurance provider, which you can find on the social security website.

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