This is an NCLEX review for iron-deficiency anemia. Patients who have iron-deficiency anemia are suffering from low red blood cells and/or hemoglobin levels. This leads to the patient experiencing low levels of oxyen throughout the body.
In the previous review, I covered other hematology disorders. So, if you are studying for NCLEX or your nursing lecture exams be sure to check out that section.
When taking care of a patient with iron-deficiency anemia it is very important the nurse knows how to recognize the typical signs and symptoms seen in this condition, how it is diagnosed, nursing interventions, and patient education.
Don’t forget to take the iron-deficiency anemia quiz.
In this NCLEX review for iron-deficiency anemia, you will learn the following:
Definition of iron-deficiency anemia
Pathophysiology of iron-deficiency anemia
Signs and Symptoms
Lecture on Iron-Deficiency Anemia
Iron-Deficiency Review Notes
Definition: a type of anemia that is caused by low IRON levels.
What is Anemia? Anemia is a decreased amount of red blood cells or hemoglobin in the body. These components play a huge role in carrying oxygen throughout the body. If you are low in RBCs or hemoglobin, your body won’t receive enough oxygen to function properly.
Key Points about Iron-Deficiency Anemia:
- Most common type of anemia (there are various types)
- Body uses IRON to make hemoglobin
- Low levels of iron lead the body to produce fewer red blood cells which leads to less hemoglobin in the body. Hence, your body receives less amounts of oxygen.
- Signs and symptoms are vague at first and as it progresses the signs and symptoms become more noticeable
- A blood test such as a CBC (complete blood count) or iron level will help the doctor detect anemia.
- Women who are childbearing age may be plagued with this due to heavy menstruation or pregnancy and people with poor digestion (intestinal issue) or poor intake of iron.
- Treatment includes: incorporating more iron in the diet, taking iron supplements, and prevention.
Pathophysiology of Iron Deficiency Anemia
The red blood cells transport oxygen throughout the body and remove carbon dioxide (a waste product from metabolism) with the help of hemoglobin.
Hemoglobin is an “ingredient” found in the RBC that is a protein that contains IRON.
- IRON helps make hemoglobin.
- Around 70% of the body’s iron is found in the hemoglobin.
- Function of hemoglobin is to facilitate the transfer of the oxygen and carbon dioxide throughout the body. It does this with the help of the RBCs.
Remember low IRON levels: mean less production of hemoglobin which means less oxygen to the body.
Causes of Iron-Deficiency Anemia
- Poor intake of iron through diet (pregnancy…increased demand of iron for fetus, vegetarians)
- Absorption problem: intestinal surgery…gastric bypass, celiac disease, small intestine removal (most iron is absorbed by the small intestine)
- Losing iron from blood loss (menstruation, GI bleeding…ulcers, hemorrhoids)
Signs and Symptoms of Iron-Deficiency Anemia
Remember the Mnemonic: “Low Iron”
Overexerted easily (may be short of breath)
Weird food cravings (ice, dirt, clay), White-faced (pale)
Inflammation of tongue…will become smooth and turn various colors of red (due to lack of oxygen it receives), Increased Heart rate (trying to compensate for the low oxygen)
Reduced Hemoglobin level (normal ranges: women 34.9 to 44.5 & 38.8 to 50 for men)
Observe changes in RBCs with a blood smear test…will appear hypochromic (pale) and microcytic (small)
Nail changes (Koilonychias….spoon-shaped nails), neuro change (confused, moody)
- CBC (to assess red blood cells, hemoglobin levels)…may order a blood smear to assess color and size of RBCs
- Iron levels
Nursing Interventions for Iron-Deficiency Anemia
- Monitoring, education, and administering medications
- Monitor patient for bleeding and hemoglobin levels and other major signs and symptoms…assessing diet, menstrual cycles etc.
- Educating how to take IRON supplements:
- Take iron on an empty stomach (increases absorption…may take with small amounts of food due to stomach upset)
- Take with Vitamin C…glass of orange juice (helps increase absorption)
- Don’t take with any milk products, calcium, or antacids (decreases absorption) and wait 2 hours in between
- Stools will turn black which is normal while taking iron supplements (tarry stools or having stools with blood..not normal)
- For liquid preparations: mix in a drink, drink with straw, and brush teeth afterwards (can stain teeth)
- Side effects: constipation (drink plenty of fluids and take over the counter stool softener if needed)
- May give IV iron or blood transfusion if severe per md order
- Eat Food High in Iron: Remember the mnemonic “Eat Lots of Iron”
Legumes, Leafy green vegetables
Fish (halibut, haddock, salmon)
Iron-fortified cereal and breads
Raisins, Red meats (beef)
pOultry (turkey, chicken)
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