Iron Deficiency Anaemia

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Iron deficiency anaemia is the most common form of anaemia. Iron is essential for the manufacture of haemoglobin, which transports oxygen in the blood. If iron levels are low, haemoglobin levels drop and the body becomes starved of oxygen.

It is usually found in women who have very heavy periods or are pregnant, and in those with an iron deficient diet. Serious rare causes include slow bleeding into the gut from a peptic ulcer or cancer.

Iron supplements by mouth are the main treatment. Iron is found in many foods including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, cereals and vegetables. Vitamin C and folic acid assist in the absorption of iron from the gut into the blood, and because of this, iron tablets often contain folic acid, and sometimes vitamin C as well. Some patients with severe degrees of anaemia due to lack of iron, or to intestinal diseases that reduce the absorption of iron, may require iron injections, but usually they can return to tablets, and then a good diet, after only a few shots.

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(Last modified: 23rd Sep 2014)

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