Iron deficiency, which can cause a slew of health problems, is easily treated yet remains the most common nutritional deficiency in the world!
Iron deficiency can affect people differently, with symptoms including anemia, weakness, headaches, irritability, shortness of breath, reduced exercise tolerance, lack of cognitive function, etc. A paper published in the Journal of Hematology and Thrombotic Diseases (Oct 2014) says that correcting iron deficiency can improve symptoms and quality of life in those living with chronic disease, including (but not limited to):
- Acute or chronic Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)
- Chronic Renal Failure (CRF)
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
- Anemia related to chemotherapy in cancer patients
- Rheumatoid arthritis
And also notes that correcting iron deficiency has improved exercise endurance in:
- Infants and young children
- Women of reproductive age
- Pregnant or post-partum women
- Pre-menopausal women (with or without anemia)
Even though iron deficiency is commonly seen in these conditions and states (as well as others), it is not commonly sought after. Medical records of 76 consecutive patients admitted to hospital with CHF were examined to find that 55% of those patients were anemic, yet only 15% of the non-anemic and 24% of the anemic patients had a full iron workup to check iron status.
Many people with iron deficiency aren’t anemic and most doctors won’t check iron status unless anemia is present, something which the paper’s author believes to be a “serious error” because it leaves many patients with undiagnosed iron deficiency. This is especially frustrating since iron deficiency is easily treated – oral iron supplements can be used or, for more severe cases which demand more rapid correction of iron, intravenous (IV) iron can be considered.
Treatment can improve anemia, fatigue, heart function, exercise tolerance and endurance, and improve the quality of life in those living with many other conditions. Iron deficiency is easy to diagnose and treat, yet this isn’t a routine check for many healthcare professionals among patients with or without anemia.
My favourite line in this paper is: Few conditions in medicine are as common, as easily diagnosed and treated, and can improve the quality of life as much as iron deficiency. While I wish that iron deficiency was part of regular screening today, we are working towards this, and in the meantime I will continue to encourage you all to be healthcare consumers rather than be consumed by healthcare.
We need to be proactive when it comes to our health and ask to be properly screened for iron deficiency. Know the symptoms – better yet, fill out the Symptoms Checker and take to your doctor – and don’t be afraid to ask for proper testing to diagnose iron deficiency.
Content and advice provided on The Iron Maiden is for information purposes only and should not serve as a substitute for a licensed health care provider, who is knowledgeable about an individual’s unique health care needs