Iron Deficiency Anaemia

Anaemia is a condition in which there is reduction in the haemoglobin content of blood or in the number of red blood cells or both or defective maturation of the red blood cells. The methods of treatment of three common anaemias viz; (1) Iron deficiency anaemia, (2) Anaemia due to folic acid and (3) Anaemia due to deficiency of vitamin B12.

Iron is essential for the formation of haemoglobin. Hence in iron deficiency anaemia there is a marked reduction in the haemolobin content (6-8%) depending on the variety of anaemia. It occurs very frequently among pregnant women, the incidence being as high as 60%.


The important causes for iron deficiency anaemia are:

  • Inadequate iron intake.
  • Poor absorption of dietary iron due to presence of excess of phytates, phosphates and oxalates.
  • Decreased absorption due to hypoacidity in the stomach.
  • Increased requirements like; pregnancy, childhood and adolescence.
  • Increased blood loss due to physiological or pathological causes like; excess blood loss in menstruation, hookworm infestation etc.
  • Poor absorption due to defect in intestinal mucosa, eg., malabsorption syndrome.

Signs And Symptoms

Women: The clinical features of anaemia are due to diminished oxygen supplies to tissues as a result of low haemoglobin content of blood. The clinical features commonly observed are general fatigue, breathlessness on exertion, giddiness and pallor of the skin. In severe cases, oedema of the ankles may be present.

Weaned Infants And Young Children: Iron deficiency anaemia occurs commonly among weaned infants and young children. The haemoglobin levels are low (5-8%). The children are weak, inactive and show pallor of the skin.


The diet should be well balanced and provide adequate amounts of all dietary essentials including iron. In the case of adults and adolescents ferrous sulphate (0.2 g providing 60 mg iron) should be given 4 times a day. In older children, ferrous sulphate tablets should be given twice a day. In case of weaned infants, a sweetened syrup containing 0.2 g ferrous ammonium citrate (providing 20 mg iron) should be given thrice daily. The treatment should be continued for a month or longer till the anaemia is cured.

Dietary Management

The body absorbs two to three times more iron from animal sources than from plants. Vitamin C is also as much as important along with iron, it enhances the absorption of iron.

Iron rich animal foods:

  • Liver (chicken, lamb)
  • Sardines
  • Kangaroo
  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Egg (chicken)
  • Duck
  • Canned salmon
  • Oyster

Iron rich plant foods:

  • Legumes (such as lentils, beans and chickpeas)
  • Tofu
  • pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds
  • Cashews and almonds
  • wholegrain cereals and brown bread
  • Dried apricots
  • vegetables such as kale, broccoli, spinach and green peas
  • Baked potatoes