Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in North America, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Iron is part of every cell in the body and is an active participant in several important body functions, such as producing the hemoglobin that is in your blood. Because women have smaller stores of iron than men do, iron-deficiency anemia is more common in women. If you have symptoms of anemia, contact a health professional.
The proper name for iron deficiency is "iron-deficiency anemia." This condition occurs when your body has insufficient red blood cells. Important nutrients are transported by red blood cells; these nutrients include oxygen and a protein called hemoglobin, which is made up of iron. Insufficient iron-containing hemoglobin leads to insufficient oxygen in the blood. This type of anemia generally develops over time, as the body depletes its stores of iron in the marrow and red blood cells and slowly produces less blood.
Insufficient blood supply can cause circulatory problems such as swollen ankles, which may be an indication of iron-deficiency anemia. This is a fairly serious symptom, as it may indicate stress on the heart, such as chronic heart failure. Consult a physician if you are experiencing swollen ankles or any symptom related to iron-deficiency anemia.
Treatment should be aimed not only at easing your discomfort of swollen ankles, but at the cause of the problem. In many cases, this type of anemia may be treated with an improved diet. Increasing your intake of iron-rich foods such as green vegetables, egg yolks, meat, legumes, raisins and whole-grain bread can boost your body's supply of iron enough to reverse the anemia. A high-quality iron supplement may also be taken to speed up the process. To ease the discomfort of swollen ankles, ice packs and elevating your legs may offer relief. Your physician may guide you and monitor your progress through simple blood tests.
Expectations and Complications
The main cause for concern with iron deficiency is that, once treated, the condition could return. A significant loss of blood or pregnancy, for example, could lead to another case of iron deficiency. Also, in rare cases -- especially in children -- an iron-deficiency anemia-related infection may develop. The general prognosis for iron-deficiency anemia is that your condition will improve with proper nutrition and monitoring by your physician.
- "The American Journal of Medicine"; Individualized Treatment for Iron-deficiency Anemia in Adults; M. Alleyne, et al.; November 2008
- Kidney and Hypertension Associates, Inc.: Anemia
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Recommendations to Prevent and Control Iron Deficiency in the United States; April 1998