News and Information from the Health and Wellness Division of Blindness Support Services - Riverside, California

IRON-DEFICIENCY ANEMIA

Iron-deficiency anemia occurs when an individual’s red blood cells lack an efficient amount of hemoglobin, thus causing a decrease in the amount of oxygen delivered to tissues.  Without the proper amount of oxygen, the cell’s energy metabolism becomes limited.

Symptoms of iron-deficiency include tiredness, apathy, the tendency to feel cold, inability to concentrate – the brain depends on an adequate supply of iron.  A curious symptom reported by some individuals is the craving for ice, clay, and paste.  Children who are deprived of iron display symptoms such as, irritability, unable to concentrate, and restless.  Once diagnosed and iron intake is increased, most symptoms quickly disappear.

Iron-deficiency is usually caused by malnutrition, either from lack of food or high consumption of the wrong food.  More often then not, we choose foods high in sugar and fat and only consume minor amounts of iron-rich foods, such as beef and legumes.  Iron absorption can also be hindered by what we consume.  For example, tea, coffee, soy protein, and fiber interfere with the absorption of iron found in normal foods.  Among non-nutritional cause of iron-deficiency, blood loss is the primary cause.  This is due to the fact that 80 percent of our iron is housed in the blood.  A woman’s menstrual cycle causes her to require twice as much iron than a man. 

The RDA suggests iron intake of 10 milligrams a day for men and older women.  For women of childbearing age, 15 milligrams is needed to replace menstrual losses.  During pregnancy, women need 30 milligrams of iron a day.  It is wise to note here that too much iron can be toxic.

IRON-FORTIFIED FOODS AND IRON SUPPLEMENTS

Some people do need, or just prefer iron in a supplement form.  This is ok, however, the iron in supplements are far less absorbable than food.  However, on can increase the absorption or iron supplements by eating meat or Vitamin C-rich foods and juices with the supplement.  If you are a supplement taker, look for the word “ferrous” on the label, this form has a higher absorption rate.

Consuming iron rich or fortified foods as another option.  Also, cooking foods in an iron skillet can increase one’s iron intake. 

BSS Health and Wellness Division e-mail: BSSHealth@aol.com

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