The Papyrus Ebers, and Egyptian manual of therapeutics from 1500 BC, describes a disease characterized by pallor, dyspnea and edema that may have been iron deficiency anemia. This ancient disease possibly was due to chronic hookworm infestation.
In 1554, a disorder called chlorosis – derived from the Greek word for green, was first described; this was probably a type of iron deficiency anemia. It was describe by 16th and 17th century physicians as a disorder most prevalent in adolescent girl who has inadequate dietary intake of iron and high requirement for iron due to increased loss from menses.
In 1825, the red coloring matter of blood was reported to have an iron content of 0.35% a value very close to that calculated by modern methods. About the same time, anemia was recognized as being due to low levels of iron in the blood and as reduction in the number of red cells.
In the late 1920s and early 1930s another form of iron deficiency anemia was recognized, ‘chronic hypochromic’ anemia.
Iron is incorporated into a large number of cellular proteins. Many are involved in enzyme catalysis and electron transport, whereas others are involved in carrying oxygen or storing and transporting iron itself.
It may also result from inadequate dietary iron intake, malabsorption, blood loss or rarely intravascular hemolysis with hemoglobinuria.
The clinical manifestations of chronic iron deficiency anemia include fatigue, anorexia, headache, lassitude, tachycardia, neurologic disorders, pallor of the skin and mucosae and koilonychia.
The value of dietary iron has been known for centuries It is said that Persian physician Melampus in 4000 BC gave iron supplements to sailors who led in battle.
Other account of iron as therapy date to ancient Egypt and Rome. Hippocrates, used iron to cure chlorosis. Iron continued to be used to treat various illness during the following centuries, but without any real understanding of its function.
The role of iron became apparent in the 17th century when iron therapy was used as a ‘cure’ for chlorosis, or ‘green sickness’, in France. Thomas Sydenham, recognized as the father do English medicine, recommended iron or steel fillings, steeped in cold Rhine wine.
There were a studies at that time that the presence of iron in blood and that blood iron levels could be increased by the feeding of iron-rich foods.
History of iron deficiency anemia
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