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My blood profile indicates an iron deficiency

I am a 33 year old woman with an active lifestyle and a vegetarian diet. I had a pain in my elbow that lasted for a month and my GP said it was tennis elbow. My GP sent me for physiotherapy along with naproxen for a month. I am unable to walk, run or climb stairs. I am always tired and the only thing I want to do is rest. For the last 20 days I have been taking Vitamin D and Iron supplements as my blood profile indicates that I have an Iron deficiency (anameia). I have had no improvement with my foot or elbow pain after 20 days of medication. There are severe swellings around my ankles as well. Can you advice on what other tests can be done? My GP has perscribed a 3 month supplment of Iron and Vitamin D.

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The answer

Thank you for your question to Ask the Expert.

The symptoms you present with, indeed, suggest Iron deficient anaemia and a deficiency in Vitamin D, as your GP has diagnosed. Iron deficient anaemia is caused by a lack of iron in the body which is required in the production of red blood cells.  Red blood cells carry oxygenated blood to all the cells of the body, so a lack of these cells in the blood results in less oxygen reaching the cells around the body.  This results in symptoms such as tiredness, pallor, shortness of breath and sometimes heart palpitations.  One of the reasons for this condition is a lack of dietary iron particularly in a vegetarian diet.  Good sources of dietary iron for a vegetarian can be found in foods such as beans, nuts, dried fruits such as apricots, whole grains and dark green leafy vegetables.  To raise the levels of iron in the body, Iron supplements are prescribed which should enable the number of red blood cells being produced to increase, therefore increasing the supply of oxygen to the rest of the body. This, in turn, should alleviate your symptoms of tiredness and help you to feel more energised.

Vitamin D is essential in the development of healthy bones. The human body requires about 10 micrograms of vitamin D per day and this can be absorbed from sunlight as well as from foods such as cereals, oily fish and eggs. Vitamin D deficiency can result in Osteomalacia in adults which causes symptoms of bone pain around the joints as well as muscle weakness or stiffness, making movement progressively difficult.  Vitamin D deficiency can also be linked to other conditions such as heart conditions, Diabetes, Asthma and cognitive impairment in the elderly.  Vitamin D supplements are prescribed to raise the levels of Vitamin D in the body and, over time, the symptoms you are experiencing should resolve.  In the meantime, the naproxen your GP has prescribed, should help to minimise the pain in your joints and help you move more freely until your levels of Vitamin D are restored. 

In the event your symptoms do not improve over the next few months, I would suggest you return to your GP for further investigations.

I hope this answers your question and hope you feel better soon.

Answered by the Health at Hand nurses

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