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What is iron deficiency anemia?

Iron deficiency anemia is a common type of anemia, a condition in which your blood has too few healthy red blood cells. Iron is essential to the production of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout your body. Iron is also necessary for maintaining healthy cells, skin, hair and nails.

In premenopausal women, blood loss through menstruation is the most common reason for iron deficiency anemia. In infants, children, teenage girls and pregnant women, too little iron in the diet is the most common reason for iron deficiency anemia. In men and postmenopausal women, iron deficiency anemia may signal bleeding in the digestive tract.

Symptoms of iron deficiency anemia may include:
  • pale skin
  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • odd cravings such as ice or dirt or clay (a condition called pica)
For most people, treating iron deficiency anemia involves taking iron supplements. If excessive bleeding is the cause of iron deficiency, treatment may also include finding and correcting the source of the bleeding.

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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.