Iron Deficiency & Anemia in Men

Anemia is a general term for a condition characterized by a lack of healthy red blood cells in the body. A lack of sufficient iron, or iron deficiency, in a man’s body can lead to a medical condition called iron-deficiency anemia. Iron-deficiency anemia usually develops gradually if there is not enough iron available to build healthy red blood cells.

Physiology

Your red blood cells contain a protein center called hemoglobin, which is made mainly of the mineral iron. The hemoglobin in the red blood cell is responsible for binding oxygen to deliver to your cells as well as picking up carbon dioxide to remove from the body. If a man’s body does not contain enough iron, he cannot successfully create healthy red blood cells. As a result, oxygen delivery and carbon dioxide removal is hindered.

Symptoms

If iron-deficiency anemia is mild, a man will generally not notice any physical symptoms. Over time, the lack of oxygen to your tissues can cause fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, headache, decreased body temperature, pale skin and chest pain. Iron-deficiency anemia can also cause cracks to form in the side of a man’s mouth, brittle nails and frequent infections. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute also notes that a man’s spleen may enlarge.

Causes

Because most of the iron in your body is carried in your blood, blood loss is a common cause of iron-deficiency anemia. Bleeding ulcers, colon polyps and urinary tract bleeding can eventually lead to the development of iron-deficiency anemia. The loss of blood associated with trauma or surgery can also lead to iron-deficiency anemia.

Other cause of iron-deficiency anemia is a poor diet. The most iron-rich foods are animal products, such as meat, poultry, fish and eggs. Because of this, vegetarian men are at an increased risk of developing iron-deficiency anemia.

Some conditions may cause a decreased ability to absorb iron, which can also lead to iron-deficiency anemia. Malabsorption may be a result of inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease, or prior intestinal surgery.

Treatment

According to MayoClinic.com, once iron-deficiency anemia develops, it is necessary to replace iron stores with iron supplements. Increased dietary intake is usually not sufficient enough to correct the condition. Iron supplementation usually must continue for several months until the deficiency is corrected. In addition to replacing missing iron, it is also important to correct any underlying medical conditions that may be causing iron-deficiency.

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