Abstract

Iron deficiency anemia affects >1.2 billions individuals worldwide, and iron deficiency in the absence of anemia is even more frequent. Total-body (absolute) iron deficiency is caused by physiologically increased iron requirements in children, adolescents, young and pregnant women, by reduced iron intake, or by pathological defective absorption or chronic blood loss. Adaptation to iron deficiency at the tissue level is controlled by iron regulatory proteins to increase iron uptake and retention; at the systemic level, suppression of the iron hormone hepcidin increases iron release to plasma by absorptive enterocytes and recycling macrophages. The diagnosis of absolute iron deficiency is easy unless the condition is masked by inflammatory conditions. All cases of iron deficiency should be assessed for treatment and underlying cause. Special attention is needed in areas endemic for malaria and other infections to avoid worsening of infection by iron treatment. Ongoing efforts aim at optimizing iron salts–based therapy by protocols of administration based on the physiology of hepcidin control and reducing the common adverse effects of oral iron. IV iron, especially last-generation compounds administered at high doses in single infusions, is becoming an effective alternative in an increasing number of conditions because of a more rapid and persistent hematological response and acceptable safety profile. Risks/benefits of the different treatments should be weighed in a personalized therapeutic approach to iron deficiency.

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