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How is iron deficiency anemia treated?

Treatment of iron deficiency anemia includes increasing your iron stores by consuming iron-rich foods and taking iron supplements when needed. Guidance from your doctor when using iron supplements is important, as too much iron can be harmful. In fact, children can accidentally overdose on iron, so it is important to store these supplements out of their reach. In severe cases, blood transfusions or intravenous iron may be necessary. These procedures are performed in a hospital setting with close observation. Most importantly, determining and treating the cause of iron deficiency is essential so that further iron losses do not occur. For instance, if your iron deficiency is due to heavy menstrual bleeding, then treatment for that may be needed as well.
If iron deficiency is the cause of your anemia, you may be treated in the following ways:

Iron supplements. Be sure to take your iron supplements exactly as directed.
  • Iron supplements are absorbed best if taken one hour before meals. Taking them before you eat, though, may give you an upset stomach or constipation. Talk with your doctor about the best way to handle side effects.
  • Some people have digestive problems when they take iron. If you can’t tolerate iron supplements taken by mouth, you may be given iron intravenously or as an injection into a muscle.
  • It usually takes about 2 to 3 weeks of regular iron supplements before your symptoms start to improve.
  • You may need to keep taking iron for several months to build up your reserves of iron and prevent your anemia from returning. Take your pills for as long as your doctor recommends, even if your symptoms have improved.
Diet and nutrition. Eating more iron-rich foods is a good, natural way to improve your health. Even if you eat more iron, though, most people with anemia still need to take iron supplements.
  • Iron-rich foods include red meat (especially liver), egg yolks, fish, peas and beans, chicken, and whole-grain bread.
  • Do not drink milk or take antacids at the same time as your iron supplements. They may interfere with absorption of the iron.
  • Vitamin C may increase the absorption of iron, and also helps your body produce hemoglobin. Ask your doctor if you should be taking it.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.