Iron Deficiency Anemia | Diagnosis & Treatment

How is iron deficiency anemia diagnosed?

Iron deficiency anemia may be suspected based on general findings from a complete medical history and physical examination, such as:

  • complaints of tiring easily
  • pale skin and lips
  • fast heartbeat

Iron deficiency anemia is usually confirmed through a complete blood count, which measures the number of red blood cells and their concentration of hemoglobin. Other blood tests may also be performed.

What are options for iron deficiency anemia treatment?

Iron deficiency anemia treatment may include:

  • Iron-rich diet: Consuming foods that are rich in iron (see chart below).
  • Iron supplement: Taking an oral iron supplement over several months to increase iron levels in blood. It should be taken on an empty stomach or with orange juice to increase absorption. (In some children, it may irritate the stomach and discolor bowel movements.)

Iron-rich foods to treat iron deficiency anemia

Iron-rich Foods

Quantity

Approximate Iron Content (milligrams)

Oysters

3 ounces

13.2

Beef liver

3 ounces

7.5

Prune Juice

1/2 cup

5.2

Clams

2 ounces

4.2

Walnuts

1/2 cup

3.75

Ground beef

3 ounces

3.0

Chickpeas

1/2 cup

3.0

Bran flakes

1/2 cup

2.8

Pork roast

3 ounces

2.7

Cashew nuts

1/2 cup

2.65

Shrimp

3 ounces

2.6

Raisins

1/2 cup

2.55

Sardines

3 ounces

2.5

Spinach

1/2 cup

2.4

Lima beans

1/2 cup

2.3

Kidney beans

1/2 cup

2.2

Turkey, dark meat

3 ounces

2.0

Prunes

1/2 cup

1.9

Roast beef

3 ounces

1.8

Green Peas

1/2 cup

1.5

Peanuts

1/2 cup

1.5

Potato

1

1.1

Sweet potato

1/2 cup

1.0

Green beans

1/2 cup

1.0

Egg

1

1.0

What is the long-term outlook for children with iron deficiency anemia?

Iron deficiency anemia cannot be corrected overnight by oral supplementation but generally a child will begin to feel better a week after they begin oral supplementation. However, it may take weeks or months to replenish the body’s iron reserves.