Iron deficiency ultimately results in anaemia if untreated, however this follows three progressive stages.
there is a negative iron balance in which the body’s need for iron
exceeds the supply. Iron is released from body stores and so the serum
iron (level of iron in the blood) remains normal and haemoglobin
production is normal. The next stage begins when
iron stores become depleted, and the serum iron starts to decrease. The
amount of haemoglobin in the blood is still normal; however the
production is decreasing. As serum iron levels continue to drop
haemoglobin levels then start to fall resulting in anaemia.
to these stages, your iron deficiency has either been of very slow
onset or started only recently, as your iron levels are low but you are
only slightly anaemic (the haemoglobin is only starting to decrease).
If you didn’t receive treatment, the anaemia would most likely get
what are the possible causes? These can be divided into 2 main groups:
increased demand or loss, and decreased intake. Increased demand occurs
during pregnancy and rapid growth spurts, while increased loss occurs
as a result of heavy menstruation, or any illness resulting in blood
loss. Decreased iron intake most commonly occurs as a result of
inadequate dietary intake especially for vegetarians and vegans, but
can also occur as a result of poor absorption in intestinal disorders.
The most common causes in women include heavy menstruation, pregnancy and inadequate supply of iron in the diet. Further discussion and investigations would confirm the exact cause.
Dr Gabriell Prinsloo