What is Ferrous Sulfate?

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  • Written By: Laura M. Sands
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 20 January 2020
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Ferrous sulfate is an iron supplement commonly prescribed to individuals with iron deficient anemia. As an essential mineral, the human body needs iron to produce red blood cells. When doctors discover that a person is not getting enough of this mineral from food sources, ferrous sulfate is prescribed to bring iron levels back within a normal range for optimal health. These particular iron supplements come in liquid, tablet and caplet form.

Often given to children and pregnant women suffering from iron deficiency, in the United States ferrous sulfate is only available by prescription and can then be obtained by most pharmacies. While it is commonly prescribed, anemia treatment with ferrous sulfate does produce side effects in some people, which include stomach and chest pain, urine discoloration and diarrhea. Constipation sometimes occurs, as well as stomach upset, but these symptoms are usually eliminated if ferrous sulfate is taken with meals.

Ferrous sulfate is the most commonly prescribed iron supplement, but other supplements, such as ferrous glycine, ferrous lactate, ferrous ammonium, ferrous citrate and ferrous fumarate, are also prescribed to treat anemia. An iron deficiency may be developed by some women in pregnancy or may be due to excessive menstrual bleeding, a poor diet or a recent loss of blood due to accident or surgery. Anemia may also be attributed to other health conditions, such as an ulcer. Children also sometimes develop an iron deficiency due to rapid development.


Females and males of any age can develop iron deficiency anemia. While iron is readily accessible from food sources, such as leafy green vegetables, raisins, dates, eggs, raw broccoli, almonds, fish, calf liver and beets, most people do not get enough of this essential mineral in the diet. In fact, some health experts have estimated that as many as 80 percent of the entire world’s population suffers from a mild to moderate iron deficiency. The symptoms of deficiency commonly include fatigue, depression, palpitations, slow growth, constipation, headache, digestive problems and obesity.

As the leading iron deficiency anemia treatment, ferrous sulfate is most often prescribed because it is the most widely available iron supplement. In comparison to other iron supplements, it is also deemed to be among the most physically tolerable by most people. While side effects do exist, they are usually minimal. The most common side effects, gas and nausea, are also less frequently associated with ferrous sulfate than any other iron supplement.


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