Iron deficiency anemia is a common blood disorder that occurs when red blood cell counts are low due to a lack of iron. Without enough iron, the bone marrow can’t produce hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that enables them to carry oxygen.
Patients with iron deficiency anemia are treated at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center through our Rare Anemias & Iron Disorders Program. Continue reading to learn more about iron deficiency anemia or visit the Rare Anemias & Iron Disorders Program homepage to learn about our expertise and treatment options for this condition.
Iron deficiency anemia, the most common reason for anemia in otherwise healthy children, is caused either by
Iron deficiency anemia is usually an acquired disorder with simple treatment. Very rarely iron deficiency anemia can be an inherited phenomenon.
Common symptoms of iron deficiency anemia include:
A doctor may suspect iron deficiency anemia based on general findings from a complete physical exam and common complaints of typical symptoms. The condition is usually discovered through a medical exam with blood tests that measure the concentration of hemoglobin and confirmed by the measure of iron in the blood.
The condition may also be diagnosed with a bone marrow exam in which samples of the fluid (aspiration) and solid (biopsy) portion of the bone marrow. Bone marrow samples are withdrawn with a special needle under local anesthesia.
After all tests have been completed, doctors will be able to outline the best treatment options.
Treatments for iron deficiency anemia include eliminating foods from the diet that might contribute to iron loss or impaired absorption, and augmenting foods that are iron-rich. Oral iron supplements are available in several different forms and are the most common treatment to increase iron levels in the blood and replace iron stores. In some rare cases iron must be supplemented by IV. Only in very rare cases does iron deficiency result in a need for blood transfusion.
Your doctor will need to determine why your child became iron deficient? Was it due only to inadequate intake or are there ongoing losses of iron/blood contributing to the deficiency. This may require investigation for sites of blood loss.