How is anemia treated?
Treatment will depend on the type and cause of the anemia. For iron deficiency anemia, iron tablets, such as ferrous sulfate (Slow Fe), will be prescribed for a period of months, initially to correct the deficiency and then to replenish the body’s stores of the mineral. Sometimes the tablets can cause side effects such as constipation or, alternately, diarrhea; they can also darken stools. If oral supplements are not sufficient or if iron stores need to be replenished rapidly, your doctor may give you an iron injection. If there is a lack of the intrinsic factor necessary for B12 absorption, vitamin B12 injections (cyanocobalamin or hydroxocobalamin) may be prescribed. Cyanocobalamin nasal spray (Nascobal) may also be used as maintenance therapy. These will need to be taken for life as the intrinsic factor cannot be restored. If the anemia has been caused by another illness, this will be treated directly.

Self-help measures
If the anemia is due to a deficiency in your diet, you must try to increase your intake of that element:

  • Vitamin B12 is found in meat, fish, eggs, and milk.
  • Iron is found in liver, meat, green vegetables, enriched flour, eggs, and milk.
  • Folic acid (another B vitamin vital to the formation of red blood cells) is found in green vegetables (lightly cooked) especially broccoli and spinach, and in liver and kidneys.
  • Take your iron tablets with orange juice to aid absorption.
  • Keep your iron tablets away from children; iron tablets can be fatal to children and often look similar to candy.
  • If you are vegetarian, try to find other sources of vitamin B12such as eggs and milk; some breakfast cereals have added vitamin B12, and soy milk and yeast extracts are also a good alternative to supplements.

Further information
Pubmed Health: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001586/

Last Reviewed: June 2013