Women may have iron deficiency without any symptoms
Iron deficiency anemia is common, especially in women. One in five women and half of all pregnant women are iron deficient. Lack of iron in your diet is one cause of iron deficiency anemia, but there are other causes as well.The causes of iron deficiency are too little iron in the diet, poor absorption of iron by the body, and loss of blood (including from heavy menstrual bleeding ). It can also be related to lead poisoning in children.
Iron is an essential component of hemoglobin , the oxygen-carrying pigment in the blood. Iron is normally obtained through the food in your diet and by recycling iron from old red blood cells. Without it, the blood cannot carry oxygen effectively -- and oxygen is needed for the normal functioning of every cell in the body.Because their bodies store less iron and because they lose blood during menstruation, women in general are at greater risk of iron deficiency anemia.
Women 11 to 50 years old need 18 mg of iron per day. Women over age 50 need 10 mg a day. Women of childbearing age need twice as much iron in their diet as older women because they lose blood during menstruation. Pregnant women need extra iron for the development of the baby. Iron supplements are therefore often prescribed during pregnancy.
Most women do not have any symptoms of anemia. For those who do, extreme fatigue is often the only sign. Your doctor will check for signs of anemia using routine blood tests during different stages of your pregnancy. If you have anemia, you will be given iron supplements. Help prevent anemia by eating lots of iron-rich foods like lean red meat, potatoes with skins, raisins, broccoli, leafy green vegetables, whole-grain breads and iron-fortified cereals.
The haemoglobin concentration falls naturally in mid-pregnancy and causes no harm to well-nourished women. However, it has been estimated that over one-half of women of childbearing age in Africa are anaemic. There is probably also a larger pool of women who are not frankly anaemic, but whose iron stores are insufficient for the demands of pregnancy. Malaria, too, contributes to a profound anaemia through haemolysis and it is clear that women who live in malaria-endemic areas need access to services that can provide treatment for both malaria and anaemia. Anaemia can contribute to maternal mortality both indirectly during haemorrhage, and also directly through heart failure.Iron deficiency anemia may lead to a hyperdynamic circulating state with significant left ventricular diastolic dysfunction.
Iron-deficiency anemia (IDA), often caused by insufficient iron intake, is the major cause of anemia in childhood.Iron-deficiency anemia doesn't develop immediately. Instead, a person progresses through stages of iron deficiency, beginning with iron depletion, in which the amount of iron in the body is reduced while the iron in RBCs remains constant.Prematurity and low birth weight are other factors that put an infant at risk for IDA.
By using a hemoglobin screen, many actual iron deficient children will be missed, and many anemic children will be treated inappropriately.1289 children, 12-35 months old, were analyzed, all of whom had CBCs, ferritin, transferrin saturation, and free erythrocyte protoporphyrin (EPP) levels available to evaluate for anemia and the presence of iron deficiency. Prevalence of all anemias was found to be 9%, prevalence of iron deficiency was 9%, and prevalence of iron deficiency anemia was 3%.
In infants and children, severe iron deficiency can lead to anemia as well as delayed growth. Untreated iron deficiency anemia can cause physical and mental delays in infants and children in areas such as walking and talking. Additionally, iron deficiency anemia is associated with a greater incidence of lead poisoning and an increased susceptibility to infections.
Iron deficiency, even to a moderate degree, can hinder women's memory and learning -- but iron supplements can turn those problems around, a study has found.
Iron is essential for delivering oxygen to cells throughout the body, and iron deficiency is known to impair brain development and learning in babies and children. But women of childbearing age are also at elevated risk of low iron stores, and less is known about the possible cognitive effects in them.
In the new study, researchers at Penn State University found that women with even moderate iron deficiency -- not severe enough to diagnose full-blown anemia -- scored more poorly on tests of memory, attention and learning than women with sufficient iron levels. Those with anemia had the worst scores.
After 4 months on iron supplements, however, women who'd been deficient in the mineral showed an improvement in their mental acuity. Those who had a significant rise in an iron-storing protein called ferritin also improved their test performance by 5 to 7 times.
The findings are published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Dr. Laura E. Murray-Kolb, who is now based at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, led the study.
"Our data are significant in that they show that normalization of iron status affects mental functioning in otherwise healthy adult women," Murray-Kolb and colleague Dr. John L. Beard write.
The findings, they add, show that the effects of iron deficiency are not limited to the developing brain. Moreover, they challenge the traditional belief that iron deficiency causes no apparent problems until it progresses to full-blown anemia, the researchers write.
The study included 113 women ages 18 to 35 given standard tests of memory, attention and learning. At the outset, blood tests showed that 42 women had sufficient iron levels, while the rest had either iron deficiency or overt iron-deficiency anemia.
The women were then randomly assigned to take either iron supplements or inactive pills for 16 weeks, before taking the cognitive tests again. Among women who were iron-deficient at the start, those whose iron stores increased significantly made far greater improvements in their test scores, the researchers found.
They say the results point to a need for better detection of people at risk of cognitive deficits due to iron deficiency.
Among women, those who are pregnant or have heavy menstrual periods are among the most at risk of iron deficiency if they don't get enough from food or supplements.
The recommended iron intake for women ages 19 to 50 is 18 milligrams (mg) per day, and 27 mg during pregnancy. Food sources of iron include meat, poultry, beans, spinach and fortified cereals.
Several intervenions, such as routine iron and folate supplements, can prevent or reduce the fall in haemoglobin levels, and the results of the large multicentre antenatal care WHO trial suggest that supplementation may reduce the need for blood transfusion during pregnancy by reducing severe postpartum anaemia .