Low Hemoglobin & Iron Pills

LIVESTRONG.com may earn compensation through affiliate links in this story.
Having low levels of iron can make you feel tired.
Image Credit: IPGGutenbergUKLtd/iStock/Getty Images

If you experience shortness of breath or struggle to find strength for completing your daily work activities, your doctor may ask you to undergo blood tests, including a complete blood count. A complete blood count test assesses the total amount of hemoglobin in your blood, the number of red blood cells and white blood cells, and the fraction of the blood composed of red blood cells. These test results can help you get a snapshot of your health. A low level of hemoglobin can develop due to anemia, which can be corrected with iron pills.

The Oxygen Carrier In Your Blood

Hemoglobin is a heme-containing protein inside red blood cells, which transports oxygen throughout your body. Heme is an iron-containing compound. Hemoglobin accounts for about two-thirds of the iron present in your body. It picks up oxygen when it comes in contact with the lungs and liberates oxygen as the need arises during its circulation through the body's tissues. A number of factors can bring the hemoglobin level down. According to MedlinePlus, lower-than-normal hemoglobin can be the result of destruction of red blood cells, malnutrition, leukemia, bleeding, various types of anemia, overhydration and nutritional deficiencies of vitamin B-6, folate, iron and vitamin B-12. Without an adequate hemoglobin concentration, your body produces defective red blood cells that are not efficient at carrying oxygen.

Having Tired Blood

Anemia, also known as tired blood, refers to a condition in which your blood contains a lower than normal number of red blood cells. This condition can also occur if you have low concentrations of hemoglobin in your blood. Anemia, which may be mild, moderate, or severe, can be caused by an iron-poor diet, blood loss, pregnancy and not absorbing enough iron. Iron deficiency is the most prevalent nutritional disorder in the world, states the World Health Organization states.

A Common Form of Anemia

Iron-deficiency anemia, which is a common type of anemia, occurs when your body doesn't have enough iron to make healthy red blood cells. If you fail to keep your iron levels within healthy limits, your body starts employing the iron it has stored. A time comes when the stored iron gets exhausted. After the stored iron is finished, your body produces fewer red blood cells, which in turn, have less hemoglobin than normal. In such a case, you may have symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain and fatigue. If you have severe iron-deficiency anemia, you may have heart problems and infections.

Understanding Your Complete Blood Count

To diagnose iron-deficiency anemia, your doctor may perform a blood test, which will help figure out how much hemoglobin is in your blood. The hemoglobin blood test is usually done as part of a complete blood count test. The normal levels of hemoglobin for men are 13.8 to 17.2 grams per deciliter and for women are 12.1 to 15.1 grams per deciliter. A lower-than-normal level of hemoglobin may indicate anemia. Your doctor might need to perform other blood tests to establish the cause of the condition. Performing a blood test to gauge the amount of iron stored in your body, called a serum ferritin test, and the amount of iron in your blood, called a serum iron test, gives the results essential to confirm the presence of iron-deficiency anemia.

Taking Iron Pills

Your doctor may recommend you take iron supplements, which come in pill form for adults, to treat a low hemoglobin level caused by iron-deficiency anemia. Supplemental iron comes in two forms: ferrous and ferric. The Office of Dietary Supplements says that ferrous iron salts such as ferrous sulfate, ferrous gluconate and ferrous fumarate are the most readily absorbed forms of iron supplements. The percent elemental iron -- the actual amount of iron in a supplement accessible for absorption by your body -- in these iron supplements may vary. For instance, ferrous fumarate provides 33 percent elemental iron, while ferrous sulfate has 20 percent elemental iron. Because iron pills may lead to gastrointestinal side effects such as dark colored stools, vomiting, constipation, abdominal distress, diarrhea and nausea, take them only as your doctor prescribes.

Show Comments