Iron deficiency causes a type of anemia. It can be a temporary condition, such as when a person loses blood in trauma, surgery or childbirth. In a normal, healthy individual, iron-supplementation will bring the iron stores back to normal in a matter of weeks. If you have chronic iron deficiency caused by chronic illness such as cancer, your iron stores stay at inadequate levels, often despite iron-supplementation. The deficiency can affect your ability to heal your wounds.
Iron-deficiency anemia is a condition in which your red blood cells are smaller than average and have a low red pigmentation. Although most cases result from blood loss or the body's inability to absorb iron, it can have a genetic origin. Family members can have the same medical history. Other types of anemia which do not involve iron include sickle-cell, thalassemia, hemolytic and pernicious anemia.
Iron's Role in Healing
Iron's primary job involves carrying oxygen-rich hemoglobin to the cells and tissues of the body. According to Elks Wound Center in Boise, Idaho, wound-healing takes many steps and involves diverse components. It generally occurs in three stages, the inflammatory phase in which wound healing begins; the proliferative phase in which cells begin to cover the wound; and the maturation phase in which scar tissue is formed. A cascade of events occurs to allow for these processes. Because iron's responsibility involves getting oxygen via the hemoglobin to the wound site, it plays an important role in healing. Healing could not take place without oxygen.
Consequences of Impaired Healing
Healing of an open wound, be it from a surgical procedure or a traumatic accident, plays a crucial part in your recovery and health. The most common complication is infection, which often affects compromised and elderly patients. An open, festering wound becomes a breeding ground for bacteria and other microbes. The infection can spread to the bloodstream and cause sepsis, a serious and often fatal condition. Without the proper amount of iron, your wound would starve off oxygen and not complete the steps of healing as oxygen plays a vital role in the repair and making of new, healthy tissue.
Combating Iron Deficiency
Acute iron-anemia responds well to iron-supplementation and to a diet high in iron-rich foods. According to Healthcastle, the best foods from which to get iron include meat, fish, dairy and protein. These help in the absorption of iron. Some vegetables and fruits that contain iron or help your body absorb it include oranges, cantaloupe, strawberries, grapefruit, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, white potatoes and peppers. Certain foods actually inhibit the absorption of iron, including coffee, tea, spinach, chard, beet greens, rhubarb, sweet potatoes, whole grains and soy products. Taking vitamin C will also improve your iron absorption. Have your iron level and hemoglobin checked periodically.