Causes of iron deficiency anemia, a condition where the body has low iron levels, include blood loss, insufficient iron in the diet, inability to absorb iron and pregnancy, according to Mayo Clinic. Lack of iron prevents the body from producing hemoglobin, which is a component of red blood cells.
Red blood cells contain iron, which is why blood loss can lead to iron deficiency anemia, explains Mayo Clinic. Heavy menstruation increases women’s risk of iron deficiency anemia. It is also possible to suffer the anemia due to gradual, chronic blood loss in the body caused by a peptic ulcer, a hiatal hernia or another condition.
Because the body regularly obtains iron from food sources, a person who does not include enough iron-rich foods in her diet is likely to develop iron deficiency anemia over time, notes Mayo Clinic. To avoid becoming iron deficient, a person should consume meats, eggs, vegetables and iron-fortified foods.
An intestinal disorder that affects the intestine’s capacity to acquire nutrients from digested food may also lead to iron deficiency anemia, states Mayo Clinic. A person can become iron deficient if a portion of her small intestine has been surgically removed or bypassed. A pregnant woman is also at risk of developing iron deficiency anemia, as her body’s blood volume increases and her iron storage needs to supply hemoglobin for the developing fetus.
People with low iron in the blood often feel dizzy, weak and fatigued, according to WebMD. Some patients experience headaches, feel short of breath, look pale and have difficulty concentrating. An iron deficiency is often diagnosed by a physician through physical exams and blood tests. Blood tests can reveal the complete blood count to determine how much iron is in the blood.