LOW IRON LEVELS, IRON DEFICIENCY
Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional disorders in the modern world. Iron deficiency and anemia, which occur due to lack of iron are still common in adolescent girls and during pregnancy.
Children under two years of age are at risk for iron deficiency because of their rapid growth, small reserves of iron and low iron content in milk.
People at puberty (primarily girls because of the menstrual cycle) also may have an iron deficiency disorder, then women during menstruation, pregnancy and lactation. Iron deficiency can also occur in the elderly because of their reduced amount of acid in the stomach, which converts iron from the unacceptable into an acceptable shape. Operations and injuries where there is a large amount of blood loss also lead to anemia.
Some abdominal and internal organ diseases can also cause anemia because they reduce the absorption of iron. Since there are many reasons that can lead to the loss of large quantities of iron, causing in that way anemia, it is always necessary to examine in detail the cause of anemia prior to the application of appropriate therapy.
Low levels of iron in blood plasma can cause itchy skin especially in the elderly. The nails become soft, brittle and white.
If pregnant women have a lack of iron they can easily become infected after childbirth, and the lack of iron can also lead to miscarriage and premature birth. Iron deficiency can cause low body weight in newborn babies and an increased risk that the child will have anemia. More drastic circumstances can lead to the death of the child at birth.
Iron deficiency is associated with increased mortality of older people because the low level of iron increases the risk of heart disease. Mothers who do not have iron deficiency give birth to infants who have enough iron for at least four months after the birth, and these infants can get extra amounts of iron through breast milk.
The immune system in patients with iron deficiency will be significantly weakened. Fungal infections and herpes are much more common in people who are used to eating foods low in iron. Strenuous exercises lead to iron deficiency, especially in athletes.
This occurs due to an increased production of hemoglobin, which occurs when a person is starting the exercise. The symptoms of iron deficiency in athletes cause faster fatigue and therefore lead to rapid heartbeat, lack of breath and an increased amount of lactic acid (which is manifested by inflammation of muscles). This iron deficiency is caused by an increased metabolic demand for iron, increased red blood cell synthesis and increased iron loss through sweating. Later, the adjustment of the organism to these strenuous exercises decreases anemia if the nutrition is adequate. The intake of iron in athletes must be carefully dosed.
Iron deficiency can also cause sleeping problems, headaches, rheumatoid arthritis and seized leg syndrome, menstrual problems that include behavioral changes, sweating, dizziness, reduced efficiency at work and daytime sleepiness.
Large amounts of iron in the body can cause damage to the intestinal tract, vomiting, diarrhea, liver damage, abdominal and joint pain, weight loss, fatigue, thirst and hunger, cancer, heart disorders, arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes and various psychiatric disorders, cirrhosis of the liver, excessive pigmentation of the skin and body weakness. People with high levels of iron in the body require prompt medical attention.
The liver is particularly sensitive to excessive amounts of iron in the body since it is the main place where iron is stored.
The quantities of iron over 3 grams can lead to death in children. Constipation is also one of the most common side effects of large amounts of iron in the body, but there can also be diarrhea. The side effects can be reduced if the iron intake is reduced into smaller portions.
High levels of iron (more than 200μg per liter of blood), lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. Some studies have shown that iron can inhibit tumor development, while others have shown that iron can affect the development of tumors. Iron can increase the risk of cancer as it affects the formation of free radicals.
Iron levels can be measured in blood. The most sensitive test for iron deficiency is the measurement of levels of ferritin (protein that stores iron) in the blood. A low level of ferritin indicates iron deficiency. However, sometimes the level of ferritin is normal or high despite the lack of iron, it may be artificially elevated due to liver damage, inflammation, infection or cancer.