What is Iron Deficiency Anaemia

Iron deficiency anaemia is a disorder of the blood, where the iron level in the blood is low.

Statistics on Iron Deficiency Anaemia

Iron deficiency affects more than a quarter of the world’s population, but isolated nutritional iron deficiency is rare in developed countries. The most common cause of iron deficiency world-wide is blood loss from the gastrointestinal tract due to hookworm infestation.

Risk Factors for Iron Deficiency Anaemia

  • Poor dietary iron intake;
  • Decreased iron absorption;
  • Increased iron demands;
  • Blood loss.

Progression of Iron Deficiency Anaemia

More iron deficiency occurs from blood loss. A normal level of haemoglobin is maintained for as long as possible until all the iron stores are depleted, during which time there is latent iron deficiency.

How is Iron Deficiency Anaemia Diagnosed?

  • Blood count and film: Red cells are microcytic (MCV<80 fl) and hypochromic (MCV<27 pg). There is variation in shape and size.
  • Serum iron and iron-binding capacity: The serum iron falls and the total iron-binding capacity rises compared with normal.
  • Serum ferritin: In most cases iron deficiency anaemia can be confirmed by measurement of serum iron or serum ferritin. In complex cases measurement of both serums is helpful.
  • Serum soluble trasferrrin receptor: The number of transferrin receptors increases in iron deficiency. This assay may avoid the need for bone marrow examination even in complex cases.

Prognosis of Iron Deficiency Anaemia

The patient should improve after oral iron has been given long enough to correct the haemoglobin level and to replenish iron stores. This can take 6 months. Failure of response to treatment will most commonly result from lack of compliance, continuing haemorrhage and incorrect diagnosis.

How is Iron Deficiency Anaemia Treated?

Anaemia is not a diagnosis. Therefore the underlying cause must be found and treated. Give oral iron to restore the haemoglobin level to normal and replace the bodys iron stores. If the patient has side-effects from iron medication, reducing the dose is all that is required. Response to iron therapy can be monitored using reticulocyte count and haemoglobin level.

Iron Deficiency Anaemia References

  1. Kumar P, Clark M (eds). Clinical Medicine (5th edition). Edinburgh: WB Saunders Company; 2002. Book