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What Deficiency Causes Dark Circles

by Clara Wynn
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What Deficiency Causes Dark Circles

What Deficiency Causes Dark Circles

What Deficiency Causes Dark Circles? Dark circles or bags under your eyes can be caused by many things, including lack of sleep, stress, allergies, or hormones like estrogen. But what if you’ve been plagued with these unsightly discolorations since childhood? If so, it may be time to check your iron levels — specifically, your hemoglobin level.

Hemoglobin is the protein that gives our blood its color. It’s also essential to life because our bodies need this red pigment to carry oxygen throughout the body. When we have too little of this crucial protein, our blood lacks healthy red blood cells, which leads to anemia. Anemia affects about one-third of women and two-thirds of men over age 50 [sources: CDC; Mayo Clinic].

There are several types of anemia but most often it’s due to iron deficiency. Iron helps in the production of new red blood cells as well as in their maintenance (a process called erythropoiesis). Without enough iron, our iron reserves cannot keep up with demand. This is why iron deficiency causes fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, headaches, irritability and other symptoms. Iron deficiency anemia is classified into three categories based on severity: iron deficient without anemia, iron deficiency with anemia,and true anemic iron deficiency.

The first type occurs when there’s not enough iron in the diet or the digestive system isn’t absorbing all of it. In the second case, some iron has made it into the bloodstream but it doesn’t have anywhere to go because there aren’t enough red blood cells to pick up any extra iron. And in the third category, no amount of iron supplements will fix the problem because there’s actually too much iron floating around.

Iron deficiency can occur at any stage of life. About 13 percent of toddlers between 2 and 5 years old suffer from it. Some factors that affect how likely you are to develop anemia include your gender, weight, ethnicity, health problems such as diabetes, kidney disease, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, chronic infections and medications like antibiotics.

If you’re concerned about whether you might have iron deficiency anemia, talk to your doctor. He or she can test your serum ferritin level. Ferritin is a storage form of iron found in the liver. Your doctor can tell if your ferritin level is low if it’s less than 30 micrograms per liter. A normal range varies depending on your sex and age, but a woman who is pregnant should aim for a higher number of 100 to 300 micrograms per deciliter.

For more information on treating iron deficiency anemia, read on.

The average American consumes only 11 milligrams of iron each day, far below the recommended daily intake of 18 mg a day.

Treating Deficiency Causes

Once you know you have a nutritional deficiency, you’ll want to correct it immediately. You don’t want to wait until you notice symptoms.
Your physician needs to evaluate your overall health before making any specific recommendations regarding treatment. For example, he or she will consider your medical history, current medications, lifestyle habits and family history. Your doctor may suggest testing to determine exactly what kind of nutrient deficiency you may have. Testing methods include:

Blood tests

A small drop of blood is needed for testing. Once drawn, the lab analyzes the blood looking at levels of proteins and chemicals associated with certain nutrients.

Bone marrow biopsy

This procedure involves inserting a needle through the backbone and removing a small sample of bone marrow. Sometimes doctors use a special x-ray machine to see inside bones. Results take approximately four weeks.

Urine analysis

Doctors can look at urine samples to get a better idea of possible deficiencies. A laboratory technician looks at chemical markers associated with different vitamins and minerals.

Oral exam

During this physical examination, a dentist checks your gums for signs of dry mouth or gum disease. A dental hygienist examines your teeth, tongue and oral cavity to make sure they’re free of cavities, plaque or tartar buildup.

Dietary assessment

After assessing your overall health, a nutritionist takes a detailed record of your eating habits and recommends dietary changes.

It’s important to note that your doctor won’t necessarily recommend iron supplements right away. First, his or her attention must turn toward correcting the underlying cause of your deficiency. Also, iron supplementation shouldn’t replace regular screenings to monitor your progress.

Iron supplements can come in tablets, liquids, powders and lozenges. They typically last between seven days and six months. However, taking the long term can lead to side effects like constipation, diarrhea, nausea and bloating. If you decide to supplement your diet with iron pills, ask your pharmacist or physician about available brands, dosages and safety precautions.

To learn more about treating iron deficiency anemia, browse the links on the next page.

Women who are pregnant should try to increase their iron stores during pregnancy in order to prevent premature birth. Giving birth prematurely can result in serious complications for both mother and child. Women who plan to become pregnant should consult their physicians about increasing their iron stores.

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