Iron deficiency anaemia
See your GP i f you experience Iron deficiency anaemia , such as tiredness, shortness of breath and heart palpitations.
A simple blood test can usually confirm the diagnosis.
Your GP may also carry out a physical examination and ask you a number of questions to help determine the cause of your anaemia.
To diagnose iron deficiency anaemia, a blood sampleis taken from a vein in your arm and a full blood countis made. This meansall the different types of blood cells in the sample will be measured.
If you have anaemia:
Your GP may also test for a substance called ferritin, a protein that stores iron. If your ferritin levels are low, it means there isn't much iron stored in your body and you mayhave iron deficiency anaemia.
Folate works with vitamin B12 to help your body produce red blood cells.
Vitamin B12 and folate deficiencyanaemia is more common in people who are over the age of75.
To determine the underlying cause of your anaemia, your GP may ask questions about your lifestyle and medical history. For example, they may ask you about:
Irondeficiency anaemia is common during pregnancy. If you're pregnant, your GP will usually only look for an alternative cause if a blood test has identified a particularly low haemoglobin level, or if your symptoms or medical history suggest your anaemia may be caused by something else.
Aphysical examination will usually only be needed if the cause of your iron anaemia deficiency hasn't been identified by examining your medical history and asking you about your symptoms.
In such cases, your GP may:
Two other possible types of physical examination you may have are explained below.
A rectal examination is usually only needed if you're bleeding from your bottom. It'sa common procedure that can help your GP find out if there's something in your gastrointestinal tract that's causing bleeding.
Your GP will insert a lubricatedglovedfinger into your bottom to feel for any abnormalities.
A rectal examination isn't something to be embarrassed about, as it's a procedure your GP will be used to doing. It shouldn't cause significant pain, but it may cause some slight discomfort this will only last for a minute.
Women may have a pelvic examination if their GP thinks heavy menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia) may be the cause of their anaemia.
During a pelvic examination, your GP will examine your vulva and labia (external sex organs) for signs of bleeding or infection.
They may also examine you internally. This will involve your GP inserting lubricated gloved fingers into your vagina to feel whether yourwomb (uterus)is tender or enlarged.
A pelvic examination won't be carried out without your consent (permission), and you can choose to have someone with you.
In some cases, your GP may refer you to a gastroenterologist, a specialist in treating digestive conditions. They'll carry out a more thorough examination.
For example, you may be referred to a gastroenterologist if your GP can't identify a cause and you have a particularly low haemoglobin level, or if your GP thinks there's a possibility your symptoms could be caused by stomach cancer or bowel cancer , although this is unlikely.
If you're a woman with heavy periods, you may be referred to a gynaecologist if you don't respond to treatment with iron supplements.
Read about iron deficiency anaemia, including information about symptoms, causes, treatment and complications.
Read about the possible causes of iron deficiency anaemia, including heavy periods, pregnancy, gastrointestinal blood loss, and chronic kidney disease.
Find out how iron deficiency anaemia is diagnosed using a simple blood test and examining your lifestyle and medical history. In some cases, you'll also need a physical examination.
Read about how iron deficiency anaemia is treated. Treatment usually involves increasing the amount of iron in your diet, taking iron supplements, and treating the underlying cause.
Find out about the possible complications of iron deficiency anaemia, including tiredness, increased risk of infection and postnatal depression.