If you have iron deficiency anemia, it can take three to six months to get your iron levels back to normal. However, different people may react to treatment differently. Some start seeing the results in just a few weeks, while others may not achieve the desired levels for months.
More than three million Americans live with anemia. It affects 40% of children and 30% of women of childbearing age worldwide. Iron deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia. When diagnosed promptly, this condition can be easy to treat.¹
Let's take a closer look at how long it takes to recover from anemia.
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Anemia is a condition that occurs when the body doesn't have enough healthy blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of your body. When a person has anemia, their organs don't get enough oxygen supplied through the blood.
Different types of anemia are:
Iron deficiency anemia (not enough iron in the blood)
Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia
Folic acid deficiency anemia
Hemolytic anemia (when the body destroys red blood cells faster than it makes them)
Idiopathic aplastic anemia (when your immune system attacks stem cells in the bone marrow)
Anemia of chronic disease (when you have an autoimmune condition that continuously causes inflammation)
Megaloblastic anemia (when your body makes abnormally large blood cells that can't function properly)
Pernicious anemia (when your stomach can't properly absorb vitamin B12)
Sickle cell anemia (a hereditary condition when your red blood cells have an abnormal shape and can't function properly)
Thalassemia (when there is an abnormality in the genes that produce hemoglobin — a protein in your red blood cells that helps transport oxygen)
Different types of this condition require different approaches to treatment. Some types of anemia that are caused by vitamin deficiency respond to straightforward treatment. Meanwhile, genetic disorders need a comprehensive approach to symptom management.
The most common type of anemia is iron deficiency anemia. When diagnosed in a timely manner, it's possible to treat it with supplements and diet adjustments. Other types of anemia may require blood transfusions, blood and bone marrow transplants, and surgery.
Common symptoms of iron deficiency anemia include:
Cold hands and feet
People who have mild anemia may not have any symptoms. They could discover the problem during a routine blood test.
The time to recover from anemia can depend on many factors, including the underlying cause of the condition. While the doctor focuses on alleviating the symptoms and restoring iron levels back to normal, they should run additional tests to understand why the condition occurred in the first place.
The common causes of anemia may include:
Blood loss – this can occur due to heavy menstruation, surgery, injuries, or urinary tract bleeding.
Iron absorption problems – this can happen due to genetic conditions, problems with the gastrointestinal tract, weight loss surgery and other stomach operations, or regular endurance exercises.
Other reasons can include long-term inflammation that may happen for many reasons, including autoimmune conditions. People who live with kidney disease may also develop iron deficiency since their bodies may not produce enough red blood cells.
The key to successful recovery is the correct diagnosis. Once you start having symptoms of iron deficiency anemia, you need to contact your doctor. It can be hard to identify the problem at home since symptoms are often similar to other conditions.
To diagnose iron deficiency, your doctor can order blood tests to evaluate complete blood count, blood iron levels, ferritin levels, and hemoglobin levels. If blood tests show an iron deficiency, the healthcare provider can design an individual treatment plan that may include:
Supplements – oral iron pills to increase the iron levels in your body
IV iron – may be necessary if you have serious iron deficiency or long-term conditions
Blood transfusions – may be necessary to increase the number of red blood cells in your body quickly (usually reserved for serious iron deficiency)
A doctor may also recommend adjusting your diet to include more iron-rich foods. These foods include beef, liver, chicken, beans, shrimp, tuna, sardines, kale, and many others.
Your body absorbs iron derived from animal food sources (meat, poultry, seafood) much more easily than iron derived from plant sources (greens, beans).
While you are getting treatment for anemia, you should continue looking for the underlying reason. For example:
If the problem is heavy periods, a doctor can prescribe hormones or other medications.
If the problem is with the urinary tract, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics or kidney stone treatment.
If the cause of iron deficiency anemia is a genetic condition, the doctor will likely prescribe long-term treatment with supplements or intravenous iron infusions.
Generally, it takes three to six months to recover from anemia. However, the recovery time can depend on many different factors, including:
Levels of iron when you begin the treatment
How fast you can address the underlying condition
The causes of your iron deficiency anemia
How well your body reacts to treatment
When you start treating iron deficiency anemia, make sure to consult your doctor regularly. They need to run blood tests to check whether the treatment is helping and suggest alternatives if necessary.
How long does it take for anemia to go away? It depends on the type of anemia you have, the underlying cause, the length of time until diagnosis, and how well you respond to treatment. For many people, the recovery time is between three and six months.
If you are experiencing symptoms of anemia, speak to your doctor. In some cases, the treatment is as simple as adjusting your diet and taking supplements. You can start feeling better in just a few weeks.
Full recovery depends on the underlying cause of your anemic condition. Once you eliminate the cause and bring your iron levels back to normal, you can feel much better. If the underlying condition is genetic, you may need life-long treatment.
It may take around three to six months to bring your iron back to normal levels. The recovery time may depend on your initial iron levels and how fast your body responds to the treatment.
To find out if your iron levels are improving, you need a blood test. Your doctor should arrange regular blood tests to see how well the treatment is working.
Iron-deficiency anemia | National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
What is anemia? | Penn Medicine
Treatment and management | National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Iron-deficiency anemia | National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Iron rich foods | American Red Cross