Iron-Deficiency Anemia (Adult)

Red blood cells carry oxygen to the tissues of your body. Anemia is a condition in which you have too few red blood cells. You need iron to make red cells. Anemia makes you feel tired and run down. When anemia becomes severe, your skin becomes pale. You may feel short of breath after physical activity. Other symptoms include:

  • Headaches

  • Dizziness

  • Leg cramps with physical activity

  • Drowsiness

  • Restless legs

Your anemia is caused by not having enough iron in your body. This may be because of:

  • Loss of blood. This can be caused by heavy menstrual periods. It can also be caused by bleeding from the stomach or intestines.

  • Poor diet. You may not be eating enough foods that contain iron.

  • Inability to absorb iron from the foods you eat

  • Pregnancy

If your blood count is low enough, your healthcare provider may prescribe an iron supplement. It usually takes about 2 to 3 months of treatment with iron supplements to correct anemia. Severe cases of anemia need a blood transfusion to quickly ease symptoms and deliver more oxygen to the cells.

Home care

Follow these guidelines when caring for yourself at home:

  • Eat foods high in iron. This will boost the amount of iron stored in your body. It is a natural way to build up the number of blood cells. Good sources of iron include beef, liver, spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts.

  • Don't overexert yourself.

  • Talk with your healthcare provider before traveling by air or traveling to high altitudes.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider in 2 months, or as advised. This is to have another red blood cell count to be sure your anemia has been fixed.

Call 911

Call 911 or seek immediate medical care if any of these occur:

  • Shortness of breath or chest pain

  • Dizziness or fainting

  • Vomiting blood or passing red or black-colored stool 

© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
Powered by Krames Patient Education - A Product of StayWell