Iron and Iron Deficiency
- Iron and iron deficiency facts*
- What is iron and why do we need it?
- What is iron deficiency and why is it a concern?
- What causes iron deficiency?
- Who is most at risk for iron deficiency?
- What are the signs and symptoms of iron deficiency?
- How is iron deficiency diagnosed?
- How is iron deficiency treated?
- Can iron deficiency be prevented?
- Young children (aged 1-5 years)
- Adolescent girls and women of childbearing age
- Pregnant women
- How much iron do I need?
- What are dietary sources of iron?
- Dietary sources of Vitamin C
- Iron overload and hemochromatosis
- Find a local Doctor in your town
Iron and iron deficiency facts*
*Iron deficiency facts medical author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
- Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency and the leading cause of anemia in the United States.
- Iron deficiency is due either to increased need for iron by the body or a decreased absorption or amount of iron taken in.
- Signs of iron deficiency include fatigue, decreased work and school performance, slow cognitive and social development during childhood, difficulty maintaining body temperature, decreased immune function, and glossitis (an inflamed tongue).
- Blood tests establish the diagnosis of iron deficiency.
- Dietary changes or iron supplements are possible treatments for iron deficiency.
What is iron and why do we need it?
Iron is a mineral needed by our bodies. Iron is a part of all cells and does many things in our bodies. For example, iron (as part of the protein hemoglobin) carries oxygen from our lungs throughout our bodies. Having too little hemoglobin is called anemia. Iron also helps our muscles store and use oxygen.
Iron is a part of many enzymes and is used in many cell functions. Enzymes help our bodies digest foods and also help with many other important reactions that occur within our bodies. When our bodies don't have enough iron, many parts of our bodies are affected.
What is iron deficiency and why is it a concern?
Iron deficiency is a condition resulting from too little iron in the body. Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency and the leading cause of anemia in the United States.1
The terms anemia, iron deficiency, and iron deficiency anemia often are used interchangeably but equivalent. Iron deficiency ranges from depleted iron stores without functional or health impairment to iron deficiency with anemia, which affects the functioning of several organ systems.2
Iron deficiency is a concern because:
- Iron deficiency can delay normal infant motor function (normal activity and movement) or mental function (normal thinking and processing skills).3,4,5,6
- Iron deficiency anemia during pregnancy can increase risk for small or early (preterm) babies.7,8 Small or early babies are more likely to have health problems or die in the first year of life than infants who are born full term and are not small.
- Iron deficiency can cause fatigue that impairs the ability to do physical work in adults.9,10 Iron deficiency may also affect memory or other mental function in teens.11
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