Iron is a mineral that the body needs to grow and develop. Iron deficiency anemia occurs when the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells due to a lack of iron in the body.
The body uses iron to make important compounds, such as hemoglobin and myoglobin. These are key proteins in red blood cells, which are responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body in the blood. The body also uses iron to make some hormones.
The body needs about 8 milligrams (mg)Trusted Source of iron per day for adult males, and 18 mg of iron per day for adult menstruating females. After age 51, the requirement for females decreases to 8 mg.
A person with iron deficiency anemia may not get enough iron in their diet. The body may also lose iron through bleeding, pregnancy, or chronic conditions. Some conditions may also keep the body from absorbing iron.
People with mild to moderate iron deficiency anemia may have no signs or symptoms. Symptoms may appear with more severe deficiency and can include fatigue, unhealthy skin and nails, and issues with the heart or respiratory system.
Doctors may use a number of tests to help diagnose iron deficiency anemia, checking for various levels in the blood as well as markers of other underlying factors. Thorough testing can help doctors find the correct underlying cause and provide treatment.
Read on to find out more about iron deficiency anemia.
Various tests can help diagnose iron deficiency anemia.
Complete blood count
A complete blood count (CBC) test is important for many blood-related issues.
A CBC test gives an overall look at the blood, measuring several important components, such as:
- red blood cell (RBC) count, which are the cells that carry oxygen
- white blood cell (WBC) count, which are the cells that fight infection
- hemoglobin, the proteins in blood cells that carry oxygen
- hematocrit, the percentage of red blood cells compared to the total blood
- platelets, which are compounds that help with blood clotting
- mean corpuscular volume (MCV), which measures the average size of the red blood cells
Depending on the test, doctors may either take a drop of blood to examine or take a vial of blood for analysis.