How to tell if you have iron-deficiency Anemia

Digestive disorders can cause serious health issues. Beyond uncomfortable symptoms, conditions such as celiac disease and inflammatory bowel diseases can cause deficiencies in critical nutrients such as iron. A visit with your gastroenterologist to talk about  your symptoms and order appropriate laboratory testing is the only way to know for certain that you have iron-deficiency anemia.

Here at Illinois Gastroenterology Group, our gastroenterologists diagnose and treat a wide variety of digestive issues. Many of these conditions can cause inflammation and damage to the nutrient-absorbing part of the digestive system. When this happens, the gut has a reduced ability to absorb certain vitamins and minerals, resulting in deficiencies. Gastrointestinal bleeding can cause low iron as well. Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies associated with digestive disorders.

The importance of iron

Iron is a vital mineral necessary for many body functions. The production of hemoglobin, an oxygen-carrying protein component of the blood, is one of the most important ways the body uses iron.

The body cannot produce its own iron, which means the iron you get from your diet is vital. When you eat iron-containing foods like meat and leafy greens, special cells that line the intestinal tract absorb the iron. Some of the iron is released into the bloodstream where it is packaged in a way that enables the liver to store it. 

The body uses iron to make red blood cells, because it is continuously removing old red blood cells and replacing them with new ones. The liver releases iron when the body needs to create new red blood cells.

What is iron-deficiency anemia?

There are several types of anemia, and iron deficiency is the most common type. It occurs when the body does not have enough iron to make red blood cells. This results in a low red blood cell count. 

Symptoms of iron deficiency anemia include:

Many other conditions can cause these symptoms. You’ll need to have a comprehensive evaluation by one of our doctors to determine whether you have iron-deficiency anemia.

Iron deficiency anemia evaluation

If you have a digestive disorder or have had surgery involving the digestive system, talk to your gastroenterologist about any symptoms you may have and discuss checking for nutrient deficiencies. Iron-deficiency anemia is fairly easy to diagnose. Your provider will inquire about your symptoms and order relevant testing to check your red blood cell and iron levels. Your doctor may order the following tests:

These tests give the doctor a more complete picture of how well your body is absorbing, storing, and utilizing iron and making red blood cells.

Who’s at risk for iron deficiency anemia?

Iron deficiency may occur when the body is unable to absorb iron, or if you have a condition that causes blood loss, such as ulcers. 

The following conditions increase your risk for iron-deficiency anemia:

Patients who have had gastric bypass or hernia surgery are at risk as well.

Iron deficiency is a real concern for patients who have digestive disorders or have had digestive surgery. Schedule an appointment to see one of our providers if you’re concerned about potential nutrient deficiency.

We have offices in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs including Gurnee, Evanston, Skokie, Libertyville, Lindenhurst, and Highland Park. Call your nearest office to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, or you can request an appointment here on our website. 

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