Iron Deficiency in Primary Care

Iron Deficiency in Primary Care

Underlying Conditions Associated with Iron Deficiency

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 risks and causes of iron deficiency differ for each condition and are explained in this section.

Iron Deficiency in Women’s Health

Women are at increased risk of iron deficiency due to menstruation and the demands of pregnancy. Teenage girls, who experience a growth spurt alongside the onset of menstruation, are at increased risk of iron deficiency and supplementing these patients, before the presence of anaemia, has shown an improvement in memory and verbal learning. During pregnancy iron deficiency anaemia can result in low birth weight or premature birth, increase the risk of postpartum anaemia and iron deficiency in the neonate. Details of the impact of these effects are outlined in this section.

Managing Iron Deficiency Before and After Elective Surgery

For patients undergoing elective surgery, patient blood management is multimodal, multidisciplinary, patient-centric care that aims to improve patient outcomes by minimizing the unnecessary use of allogeneic blood transfusions. Patient blood management preserves the allogeneic blood resource and is achieved by addressing anaemia, blood loss and hypoxia as modifiable risk factors for blood transfusion, long before transfusion would even be considered.


Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency globally, considered by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to be an important contributing factor to the global burden of disease. Iron deficiency is the primary cause of anaemia, which affects an estimated 47% of pre-school children (<5 years) and 25% of school-age children worldwide.