Do You Need an Iron Deficiency Anemia Test? What You Need to Know
Have you been feeling overly tired, irritable, or maybe noticing your complexion looks a little paler than usual? You could be suffering from a condition called iron deficiency anemia. This type of anemia is the most common type in the world.
Anyone can suffer from iron deficiency anemia, but it affects more women than men. If left untreated, it can lead to serious health consequences. Read on to learn more about this condition, including risk factors, causes, symptoms, treatment, long-term effects, diagnosis, and how you can get an iron deficiency anemia test.
About Iron Deficiency Anemia
Iron deficiency anemia, as its name states, is anemia that is caused by a lack of iron in your body. Iron is a mineral that is primarily stored in your red blood cells. It is also stored in your bone marrow, but in lesser amounts.
If you suffer from any type of anemia, you have a decreased level of red blood cells, which is problematic because red blood cells carry oxygen throughout your body and remove waste such as carbon dioxide. If your body does not have enough blood cells, your overall health will start to suffer.
Because the initial symptoms can be mild and may come on slowly, iron deficiency anemia can often go years without a diagnosis. This is problematic because, if left untreated, a lack of oxygen in the blood can damage your organs, including your heart and lungs. It can also cause developmental delays in children.
Risk Factors and for Iron Deficiency Anemia
While anyone can suffer from iron deficiency anemia, certain groups of people are at a higher risk. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are at a greater risk for developing iron deficiency anemia because their bodies require additional iron stores to help support their developing child. A good prenatal vitamin should contain iron to help combat this potential issue.
Small children can also be at risk for iron deficiency anemia. This is usually due to calcium intake coupled with a picky diet. Calcium is needed for growth and development in children, but it can also make it difficult for the body to absorb iron.
If your child drinks a lot of milk but does not eat other sources of iron, he or she may be at risk. You can look for foods that are fortified with iron to help prevent iron deficiency anemia.
Finally, vegetarians are at a higher risk for developing iron deficiency anemia because meat contains higher levels of iron than vegetables. If you are a vegetarian, it is important to replace meat with other iron-rich foods in your diet, such as legumes or tofu.
Causes of Iron Deficiency Anemia
You have already learned that a lack of iron causes iron deficiency anemia. There are several different reasons why your body could be low on iron.
Since iron is stored in your red blood cells, any type of loss of blood is a major risk factor. Blood loss could be from an accident or injury, internal bleeding, regular blood donations, or heavy menstrual periods in women.
Certain medical conditions cause internal bleeding that could lead to iron deficiency anemia as well. Some of these conditions include:
- Stomach ulcers
- Colon cancer
- Ulcerative colitis
- Endometriosis in women
If you suffer from any of these conditions, it is important to regularly keep track of your iron levels.
Over-the-counter pain relievers may seem harmless, but regular use of them can also cause the lining of the stomach to bleed, which could also lead to iron deficiency anemia. If you take over-the-counter pain medications, make sure you follow the packaging instructions to avoid complications.
Certain conditions that affect the gastrointestinal tract, such as Celiac Disease, also make it difficult for the body to absorb iron. If you suffer from Celiac Disease or another condition that makes it difficult to absorb iron, you should regularly test your blood and iron levels.
Finally, a lack of iron in your diet can also lead to iron deficiency anemia. This is not as common of a cause in the United States, since many foods, such as breakfast cereals, are fortified with iron. Foods that are naturally high in iron include:
- Meat (particularly red meats)
- Dark green vegetables
- Sweet potatoes
- Whole grain products
- Dried fruits
If you do suffer from iron deficiency anemia, it can be difficult to treat it with dietary changes alone. It is best to get a diagnosis and talk to your healthcare provider to devise an appropriate treatment plan.
Symptoms of Iron Deficiency Anemia
Symptoms of iron deficiency anemia can vary by person and range in severity. They may include:
- An unusual paleness or a lack of color in your skin
- Irritability (mood swings)
- A lack of energy, tiredness, fatigue
- A rapid or irregular heartbeat
- A swollen or painful tongue
- Pica (a condition where you have a desire to eat peculiar substances such as dirt or ice)
- An enlarged SpleenÂ
- Cold hands and feet
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Brittle nails
If you experience any of these symptoms, you should have your blood levels tested. In the early stages of iron deficiency anemia, the symptoms often start off mild, with symptoms such as tiredness or irritability, and progress to more dangerous symptoms, such as irregular heartbeat, if it is left untreated.
Treatment for Iron Deficiency Anemia
Treatment for iron deficiency anemia can be as simple as taking iron supplements. However, you will want to test your blood levels or iron levels first. Too much iron can be toxic, so you do not want to take supplements if you do not need them.
You will also want to make sure that iron deficiency anemia is truly the cause of your symptoms. Many of the symptoms listed above could be caused by other, more serious conditions. It is always a good idea to rule out these conditions with a comprehensive lab test.
If you believe you have iron deficiency anemia after viewing your lab tests, you should contact your healthcare provider. Depending on how low your blood levels are, you may need a prescription supplement, an intravenous supplement, or other medical care.
If you are prescribed an iron supplement or recommended to take an over-the-counter one, try taking it with orange juice, grapefruit juice or another beverage high in vitamin C. It can be difficult for your body to absorb iron, especially through iron supplements. Vitamin C naturally helps your body absorb iron.
Long Term Effects of Iron Deficiency Anemia
If left untreated, iron deficiency anemia can have serious health consequences. Your heart must work harder to make up for the lack of oxygen. This can lead to a condition called tachycardia, which is characterized by an abnormally fast heartbeat or even lead to heart failure.
A lack of iron also affects your bodyâ€™s immune system. This causes you to be more susceptible to various illnesses and infections.
Pregnant women suffering from iron deficiency anemia are also at an increased risk of going into premature labor. They are also more likely to suffer from postnatal depression and may pass low iron levels onto their child.
How Iron Deficiency Anemia is Diagnosed
Iron deficiency anemia is diagnosed through a few simple blood tests. If you have not had blood work done in a while, the most common way to start is to get a test that measures your complete blood count (CBC). A CBC test measures the total amount of all parts of your blood, including your red and white blood cells, hemoglobin, hematocrit, and blood platelets.
In iron deficiency anemia, both hemoglobin and hematocrit levels are low. Adult women should have a hematocrit range of 34.9 to 44.5 percent. Adult males should have a range between 38.8 and 50 percent. Any levels lower than that could be a sign of iron deficiency anemia.
A normal hemoglobin level for adult females is between 12.3 and 15.3 grams per deciliter. For adult males, the range should be between 14.0 and 17.5. If your levels are outside of that range, you should contact your primary healthcare provider for advice on how to proceed.
There are many ways to get tested, but the simplest approach is to order a lab test online. Ulta Lab Tests offers a complete CBC test for a very affordable price.Â
Additional Lab Testing
A CBC test is a good start, but it is not the only way to gauge your iron levels. Another iron deficiency anemia lab test is the total iron-binding capacity (TIBC) test. This is typically a secondary test if you notice problems with your CBC test or if you have recently had a CBC test done.
A TIBC test tells you how well your body can carry iron throughout your body. It is a good way to help your healthcare provider distinguish between iron deficiency anemia or other related disorders.
A transferrin lab test can also aid in the diagnosis of iron deficiency anemia. This lab test measures your bodyâ€™s iron-binding capacity. Transferrin is a protein that helps regulate iron absorption. It is helpful in determining your bodyâ€™s iron balance.
Finally, a ferritin test can be helpful in diagnosing iron deficiency anemia. Ferritin is a protein in your blood that stores iron. Low ferritin levels are often a sign of iron deficiency anemia.
These tests may sound overwhelming, but Ulta Lab Tests makes it easy by offering anemia test panels. Simply type â€˜anemiaâ€™ in the search bar or check out the complete list here. If you have questions, you can get live support online with a customer service agent to determine which test or test package is right for you.
What to do After You Receive Your Results
Ulta Lab Tests will send the results of your test directly to you. If you have any questions, you can reach out to their trained staff for support. If you receive an abnormal test, Ulta Lab Tests will send an additional notification to ensure you understand the results.
Whether your results are within normal levels or not, you should send them to your healthcare provider. Your doctor can implement an appropriate plan or may wish to see additional tests.
Benefits of an Iron Deficiency Anemia Test with Ulta Lab Tests
There are several benefits to ordering your lab test through Ulta Lab Tests. First, you can rest assured, knowing that your test results are secure and confidential. You also do not need insurance or a doctorâ€™s referral, which saves you time and money.
Ulta Lab Tests offers very affordable test rates, cheaper than going through a doctorâ€™s office. This is because we use state of the art technology and keep overhead costs low to pass the savings along to our customers.
After you have selected the test that is right for you, use the location feature to find the patient service center that is closest to your home or office. Ulta Lab Tests has 2,100 approved bloodwork centers. All test specimens are carefully processed at nationally certified locations.
Waiting for lab test results often causes additional worry or anxiety. With Ulta Lab Tests, you will receive your results quickly within one to two business days for most tests.Â
Ordering Your Test with Ulta Lab Tests
Now that you have learned a little more about iron deficiency anemia, it is time to take charge of your health and order the iron deficiency anemia test that is right for you today. Click here to viewall that Ulta Lab Tests has to offer.