What is Iron deficiency anemia? 

    •       Lack of iron is the most common cause of anemia

    •      Anemia occurs when there are too few red blood cells in the bloodstream or when there is not enough hemoglobin (oxygen-carrying protein) in the red bloodcells

    •      You need iron because it allows red blood cells and muscles to transport and use oxygen in the body

    What can you do about it? 

    •       You need to take iron to treat your anemia. The amount of iron in a daily multivitamin is not enough to replace iron deficiency. There are many different kinds of iron supplements. All are effective

    •       All iron supplements can cause side effects such as constipation, nausea, and stomach discomfort. If you get constipated, try using a fiber supplement or stool softener

    •       To avoid side effects, start slowly with a low dosage and increase over time to full dosage. For example, take one tablet a day for 2 weeks. Then increase to 2 tablets a day for the next 2 weeks. Then increase to 3 tablets a day for the next 2 months. Be sure to drink plenty of water

    •       Ferrous gluconate (Fergon) and polysaccharide iron complexes (Niferex) cause fewer side effects

    Important DOs & DON'Ts

    •      DO take iron supplements with food. Take them with acidic foods like orange juice or with vitamin C. Acid improves absorption of iron

    •      DON'T take iron supplements with milk products or antacids. These can decrease iron absorption

    •      DO eat an iron rich diet. Try to get 10 to 15 milligrams of iron from food every day. See below for a list of foods that are high in iron

    •      DO follow up with your doctor in 3 months after starting an iron supplement

    Ask your doctor or nurse what kind of iron supplement is best for you to take. Your doctor or nurse can tell you how much iron you should take as a supplement and for how long.

    This document is intended to provide health related information so that you may be better informed. It is not a substitute for your care team's medical advice and should not be relied upon for treatment for specific medical conditions.

    © 2012The General HospitalCorporation.

    Primary Care Operations Improvement Site prepared by the MGH Laboratory of Computer Science

    Click the link for more information on Family Medicine Clinical Service

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