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Crohn's Disease & Iron-Deficiency Anemia

By Lindsay Boyers

Anemia is a general term for a lack of healthy red blood cells in the body. Iron-deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia and occurs due to inadequate amounts of iron in the body. Iron-deficiency anemia commonly develops as a result of blood loss. Crohn’s disease, a chronic digestive condition characterized by inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, often leads to blood loss.


Your red blood cells carry oxygen to the tissues in your body as well as remove carbon dioxide from them. At the center of each red blood cell lies an iron-rich protein called hemoglobin. According to “Nutrition and You” by Joan Salge Blake, two-thirds of the iron in your body is located in your hemoglobin. If you do not have enough iron, you cannot create healthy red blood cells. Normally, your body reuses most of the iron you have available to build red blood cells. When you lose blood, you lose a significant amount of iron and red blood cells cannot be made properly.

Crohn's Disease and Blood Loss

Crohn’s disease can cause inflammation in any area of the digestive tract, although it commonly affects the lower area of the small intestine called the ileum. The inflammation associated with Crohn’s disease often causes chronic diarrhea, pain and rectal bleeding. notes that blood loss is the most common cause of iron-deficiency anemia in the United States and Western Europe. Crohn’s disease can cause complications that result in a significant amount of blood loss, thus leading to iron-deficiency anemia. One of the most common complications of Crohn’s disease are ulcers, or open sores, along your digestive tract. When ulcers develop, they cause a significant amount of internal bleeding. Occasionally, blood will appear in your stool. Crohn’s disease can also cause anal fissures, which is a cut or crack in the skin of the anus. Anal fissures can also lead to significant blood loss.


Treatment for iron-deficiency anemia caused by Crohn’s disease focuses on replenishing iron stores, as well as controlling Crohn’s disease. Iron stores can be corrected through oral supplementation of iron or increased dietary intake. If blood loss is severe, blood transfusions may be necessary to replenish the amount of red blood cells in your blood. In addition to replenishing iron stores, it is important to stop the bleeding from the intestinal tract. Following steps to control your Crohn’s disease can help reduce symptoms and allow ulcers and fissures to heal.

Managing Crohn's Disease

Currently, there is no cure for Crohn’s disease. Treatment focuses on reducing inflammation, which can help alleviate symptoms and reduce complications. Your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs or immune system suppressors. If Crohn’s disease is severe, surgery to remove part of the intestine may be necessary.

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