Iron Deficiency Anemia (cont.)
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Treatment for iron deficiency anemia focuses on increasing your iron stores so they reach normal levels and identifying and controlling any conditions that caused the anemia. If your anemia is caused by:
Taking iron supplement pills and getting enough iron in your food will correct most cases of iron deficiency anemia. You usually take iron pills 1 to 3 times a day. To get the most benefit from the pills, take them with vitamin C (ascorbic acid) pills or orange juice. Vitamin C helps your body absorb more iron.
Most people start to feel better within a few days of beginning treatment. Even though you feel better, you will need to keep taking the pills for several months to build up your iron stores. Sometimes it takes up to 6 months of treatment with iron supplements before iron levels return to normal.
You may need to have iron replacement shots if you have an iron absorption problem and are not able to increase your iron levels by taking pills or increasing the amount of iron in your diet. You may need these shots throughout your life.
If your anemia is severe, your doctor may give you a blood transfusion to correct your anemia quickly and then have you start on iron supplement pills and a diet high in iron.
To watch your condition, your doctor will use blood tests, such as:
Usually, people can eliminate iron deficiency anemia by taking iron as pills or shots and adding iron in their diet. If your anemia is not corrected with these treatments, your doctor will do more testing to look for other causes of your anemia, such as new bleeding or difficulty absorbing iron from pills. These tests may be the same as those initially used to diagnose your anemia.
What To Think About
If you suspect you have iron deficiency anemia, do not take iron pills without consulting your doctor. Taking iron pills could delay the diagnosis of a serious problem such as colorectal cancer or a bleeding ulcer.
If the anemia is not due to iron deficiency, taking iron pills will not relieve the anemia and could cause poisoning (iron toxicity). It could also cause an iron overload condition called hemochromatosis, especially in people who have a genetic tendency toward storing too much iron in their bodies.
In some people, iron pills cause stomach discomfort, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and black stool. Iron is best absorbed if taken on an empty stomach. But if you are having stomach problems, you may need to take the pills with food. Do not take iron pills with milk, caffeinated drinks, or antacids. If the side effects of your iron pills make you feel too sick, talk to your doctor. He or she may know of another type of iron pill you can take.
Iron supplement shots can cause side effects. Shots given in a vein (intravenously, IV) pose the risk of an allergic reaction. Shots given in the muscle of the buttock (intramuscularly, IM) may produce permanent marks on the skin that look like a tattoo.
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