Iron Deficiency Anemia

What is iron deficiency anemia?

Iron deficiency anemia is a common blood disorder that occurs when red blood cell counts are low due to a lack of iron. Red blood cells need iron to produce a protein called hemoglobin that helps them carry oxygen from the lungs to all the parts of the body. Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anemia in otherwise healthy children in the United States.

Children with iron deficiency anemia may tire easily, have pale skin and lips and have a fast heartbeat. Iron deficiency anemia is usually discovered by a blood test during a routine medical examination. Mild iron deficiency anemia is usually treated by consuming an iron-rich diet or taking oral iron supplements. More severe iron deficiency may be treated with IV iron or even blood transfusion. In children with a rare, inherited version of iron deficiency anemia — iron-refractory iron deficiency anemia (IRIDA) — the child is born with a gene mutation that causes iron deficiency and may require regular intravenous iron infusions.

How we care for iron deficiency anemia

Children and young adults with anemia are treated by the Blood Disorders Center at the Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. Our program brings together world-renown pediatric hematology specialists and support staff, including hematopathologists, hematology nurse practitioners, social workers and designated hematology patient coordinators. For many appointments and certain procedures, your child can also receive care at one of Boston Children's satellite offices.

Our areas of research for iron deficiency anemia

Our physician scientists are conducting innovative research on anemias and red blood cell disorders. We have a long track record of innovation, and we are considered a world leader in laboratory and clinical research on blood disorders. Regarding iron deficiency anemia research specifically, we are conducting ongoing research on better ways to screen for iron deficiency and to predict who will respond to oral iron supplements. In addition, we are conducting studies to determine the molecular basis of iron-refractory iron deficiency anemia (IRIDA) and other rare blood disorders.