Common Causes of Iron-Deficiency Anemia


Chris Iliades, MD

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Iron is an essential part of your blood. In red blood cells, it’s required for a protein called hemoglobin to carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Iron-deficiency anemia is when you don’t have enough iron in your system to make new blood cells able to carry oxygen. You end up with fewer red blood cells and your body gets less oxygen that it needs to function normally. This leads to the classic symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia, including fatigue, shortness of breath, and lightheadedness.

There are four common causes of low iron:

  • Needing more iron than your body is making (increased demand)
  • Loss of red blood cells from bleeding
  • Not being able to absorb enough iron from your diet
  • Not having enough iron in your diet

Increased Demand

You may need more iron if you are pregnant. Your body needs to make more red blood cells to supply your womb and your developing baby. More red cells can deplete your supply of iron. Doctors routinely check iron levels in pregnant women. A complete blood count test will check your level of hemoglobin. Other blood tests can check iron levels.

Iron-deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia. Learn these interesting facts about the condition.

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Oct 4, 2017

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