Iron deficiency

Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anaemia.

Overview

Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anaemia. Deficiency can be caused by excessive blood loss (e.g. menstruation), but is often the result of impaired or insufficient absorption of iron in the gastrointestinal tract. Good preventive sources of iron include meat, liver, pulses and oats.

Symptoms

Main symptoms

As iron deficiency leads to anaemia, the following symptoms are typical:

Other symptoms

  • Cracks in the corners of the mouth (rhagades)
  • Rough skin and brittle hair
  • Burning tongue

Causes and treatment

Causes

  • Loss of iron through bleeding (e.g. menstruation)
  • Increased need for iron (e.g. during pregnancy, growth phase)
  • Insufficient iron absorption (e.g. diarrhoea, one-sided diet, coeliac disease)

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests
  • Blood test (measurement of iron levels, examination of blood cells)
Possible therapies
  • Iron tablets
  • Iron infusion (intravenous)
  • Treatment of an underlying disease (e.g. coeliac disease)

What can I do myself?

  • A balanced diet provides the daily requirement (1 to 1.2 mg for men, 2 mg for women)
  • Tripe, meat, pulses (e.g. lentils), oats and nuts contain a lot of iron
  • Fruit containing high levels of vitamin C (e.g. citrus fruit, kiwi) promote the absorption of iron in the gastrointestinal tract

When to see a doctor?

  • Persistent fatigue
  • Heavy periods
  • Persistent diarrhoea

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Exclusion of liability

CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

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