Diagnosing Iron-Deficiency Anemia

Iron-deficiency anemia is common and it can be caused by a number of various conditions. It is a very common condition seen in menstruating people and those who do not consume enough iron-rich foods. While some people barely notice the symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia, others may experience severe and sometimes debilitating symptoms. Here are some ways your doctor can diagnose iron deficiency anemia, and once your diagnosis has been confirmed, an effective treatment plan will be implemented.

Physical Examination And Symptom History

Your family care doctor will perform a physical examination to assess your body for signs of anemia. They will palpate your abdomen and if your spleen feels enlarged, it may be a sign of severe anemia or other blood disorder. Your doctor will also assess your skin and mucus membranes inside of your mouth. If your skin is pale or jaundiced or if your gums, tongue, and inner cheeks are pale, they may suspect anemia.

Your healthcare provider may also examine the insides of your lower eyelids during your examination. If they are very pale or white instead of pink, you may have anemia. In addition to your physical examination, your doctor will ask you about your symptoms. They may ask you if you experience shortness of breath, dizziness, fatigue, numbness and tingling sensations, and bleeding gums. While these signs and symptoms can be the result of other medical conditions, they are common in people with iron-deficiency anemia. 

Blood Tests

Your family care doctor may also recommend a complete blood count to confirm an iron-deficiency anemia diagnosis. Your complete blood count, also called a CBC, will check for decreases in your red blood cells, platelets, and iron levels. It is important to note, that these blood components are sometimes temporarily decreased as a result of an infection, certain medications, a recent surgery, or heavy menstrual periods.

Before your physician recommends a treatment plan or prescribes an iron supplement, they may ask that you return for a follow-up CBC in a few weeks to see if your levels went back up. If they have, no additional iron-deficiency anemia treatment will be necessary. If, however, your levels are still low, your doctor may recommend ferrous sulfate medication, taking vitamin C because it helps the body absorb iron, and eating more iron-rich foods. 

If you have signs and symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia, make an appointment with your family care doctor. While treatments for iron-deficiency anemia are typically very effective it can take a few months before your symptoms completely resolve and your blood tests return to normal.

Contact a family care doctor to learn more.