Although the symptoms of iron deficiency anemia are similar to those of other common conditions, the diagnosis of anemia attributed to iron deficiency is a challenge. A serum ferritin level is one useful test. The C-reactive protein (CRP) of the blood helps differentiate false negatives due to inflammation. Other tests used to diagnose anemia due to iron deficiency include decreased reticulocyte hemoglobin concentration and increased soluble transferrin receptor levels.
The most common method for diagnosing anemia caused by iron deficiency is a complete blood count. A patient’s hemoglobin level should be low or absent, and serum ferritin and transferrin saturation should be normal or elevated. A patient should also have a low platelet count. Further diagnostic studies may be necessary to confirm anemia. This article will highlight some common signs and symptoms of iron deficiency.
The diagnosis of anemia due to iron deficiency can be made more difficult if there are coexisting diseases or underlying medical conditions. Iron deficiency is often associated with gastrointestinal surgery and weight loss. Some people suffer from rare genetic conditions that disrupt their ability to absorb iron. A patient with pica, a condition where they crave non-food items, and koilonychia, a condition where their nails look like spoons, are other signs of anemia. Another symptom is pale skin.
Other causes of iron deficiency can include growth spurts in adolescents or older adults. Some chronic medical conditions like bone marrow disorders, autoimmune disorders, and colon cancer can also cause iron deficiency. Patients with bright red blood and dark tarry stools may have bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract. Chronic bleeding during menstruation may be a sign of colon cancer, and in developing countries, intestinal bleeding due to hookworm infection may be a sign of iron deficiency.
In patients with severe anemia, iron deficiency is often a limiting factor in the recovery process. They may need frequent blood transfusions and suffer end-organ damage. Intravenous iron supplementation was largely discontinued in the past due to serious side effects, but safer preparations are available. Even though the treatment for iron deficiency is effective, the treatment is not always the best option.
In addition to the blood tests, the physician may order the administration of an oral iron supplement for hemodynamically stable patients with anemia. There are two types of iron supplements: ferrous gluconate and ferrous sulfate. Ferrous gluconate is the most bioavailable type, but iron sucrose has less potential for adverse side effects. These forms are more expensive than iron dextran and require repeated infusions.