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Iron Deficiency for Healthcare Professionals

Iron Deficiency for Healthcare Professionals

Identifying and Treating Iron Deficiency

Iron is required for good mental and physical health, to maintain energy levels and to ensure a healthy immune system. Without sufficient iron, patients may feel exhausted, lethargic and apathetic, and can exhibit a range of other symptoms which highlight the various systemic effects of low iron levels. Measuring iron levels within the blood can confirm whether or not a patient is iron deficient. If necessary, patients’ iron levels can be increased with an iron-rich diet, and/or supplemental iron in the form of oral iron tablets or intravenous iron.

Iron Deficiency in Primary Care

Many underlying conditions and lifestyle factors can affect the balance of iron demand and supply in the body by causing blood loss, malabsorption of iron, malnourishment, or by increasing iron needs. These conditions include chronic heart failure, inflammatory bowel disease, coeliac disease, bariatric surgery, chronic kidney disease, cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. The specific risks for patients with these conditions are discussed, in addition to the specific risks of iron deficiency for women and paediatrics.

Iron Deficiency in Pregnancy and Post Partum

Pregnancy puts a huge demand on a woman’s iron stores and dietary requirements, which are often not met, leading to 25% of pregnancies in western societies suffering from iron deficiency anaemia. Iron deficiency anaemia during pregnancy can result in low birth weight or premature birth, increase the risk of postpartum anaemia and iron deficiency in the neonate. Iron deficiency at the early stages of brain development can lead to neurocognitive dysfunction, whilst postpartum iron deficiency anaemia has several consequences, including increasing the risk of postpartum depression and insufficient milk syndrome.

Specialist Care

There are many conditions and factors that lead to an increased risk of iron deficiency. As a result, managing iron deficiency, and iron deficiency anaemia, is a challenge that affects many different medical specialties. These include cardiology, gastroenterology, nephrology, oncology and obstetrics and gynaecology.