Iron deficiency anemia develops as a result of having too little iron to make red blood cells. Iron is an essential mineral for building red blood cells which can be found in our dietary intake.

Who are at risk for iron deficiency?

  1. Low socioeconomic status
  2. Newcomers from developing countries
  3. Overweight and obesity
  4. Perinatal bleeding, multiple pregnancy

Common blood tests to diagnose iron deficiency anemia:

  1. Hemoglobin- the part of the red blood cell that carries oxygen
  2. Hematocrit-the amount of red blood cell within a specific amount of blood
  3. Ferritin-a form of stored iron
  4. Transferrin Saturation-the amount of iron that is available to produce red blood cells
  5. Reticulocyte-immature red blood cells. Measuring this informs physicians that the number of red blood cells will increase.

Dietary Iron

Dietary Iron Guide (pdf)

Age Recommended Daily Iron Intake (mg)
Children 1-13 years 7-8 mg
Males 14-18 years 11 mg
19+ years 8 mg
Females 14-18 years 15 mg
19-50 years 18 mg
51+ years 8 mg
Pregnancy 27 mg
Breastfeeding 9 mg
For all ages, stay below 45 mg/day

Iron Pills

The need for supplemental iron be can determined by your primary healthcare provider with a simple blood test.  Taking iron pills to try to prevent or treat anemia without first talking to your doctor may be harmful. It is important to confirm the cause of anemia prior to treating it.  Large amounts of iron can make you sick.  Persons with hemochromatosis (a common hereditary iron overload condition) should not take additional iron.   See your healthcare provider if you have symptoms of anemia.

How to take your Oral iron prescribed by your healthcare provider

  • Should be taken on an empty stomach
  • Iron should be taken two hours before, or four hours after, ingestion of antacids
  • Iron absorption can be improved with Vitamin C; drink a glass of orange juice with your iron pill
  • Drink liquid iron using a straw to prevent staining teeth

Intravenous Iron

Intravenous Iron treatment may be considered:

  • when patient does not respond to iron pills due to:
    • mal-absorption,
    • intolerance,
    • limited time,
  • very low iron stores,
  • rapid correction of low hemoglobin required,
  • ongoing bleeding exceeds recovery from iron pills,
  • Intravenous iron may be considered as an adjunctive therapy to erythropoietin (Eprex®) when Ferritin level is too low (< 100 mcg/L) to support the additional iron requirements of erythropoietin therapy

Intravenous Iron must be administered in a healthcare setting with nursing and physician support.  This option is assessed on an individual patients risk/benefit profile.

Intravenous (IV) Iron Patient Information (pdf)