Iron deficiency can be managed better

Australian and European researchers have released updated evidence-based guidelines for managing iron deficiency, a serious health problem worldwide.

Iron deficiency is a major cause of anemia, a deficiency of oxygen-carrying red blood cells or hemoglobin, which affects two billion people worldwide – including one in every 20 Australian adults. Iron deficiency and anemia can have serious long-term health consequences, especially for young children. It can also be a sign of other serious health conditions that need to be addressed.

Recent research has led to important updates in best practices for physicians to diagnose and manage iron deficiency, and implementing this will lead to significant long-term health benefits in both Australia and around the world.

The new guidance is published today in a review at The scalpel, Written by WEHI Clinic scientists, Associate Professor St. Ryan Basricha and Associate Professor Jason Tay Dean, both of whom are doctors at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, along with Professor Martina Macenthaler from Heidelberg University, Germany, and Professor Doreen Swinkels from Radboud University Medical Center, The Netherlands.

** In a glance

    Iron deficiency is a very common health condition in both Australia and around the world, and it is a common cause of anemia in people of all ages.

    Anemia and iron deficiency have serious long-term health consequences, and it is important that they are diagnosed and treated appropriately.

    – New revision in The scalpel Set out the most recent evidence-based guidelines on how to spot and manage iron deficiency, to ensure long-term health benefits.

** A serious health concern

Iron deficiency is a common problem worldwide, including in Australia, where it affects all ages from young children to the elderly: 12 per cent of Australian women are currently iron deficient, and one in 10 Australians suffers from iron deficiency in At some point in their lives. Spirits.

Associate Professor Basricha, who is also a hematologist at Royal Melbourne Hospital, said a range of health problems can occur due to iron deficiency, including heart problems or when pregnant women or children are iron-deficient, the baby is at risk of growth problems. . .

“The ability to diagnose iron deficiency, and understand and manage the causes of anemia, can provide a critical boost to the health of people of all ages,” he said.

“Our review provided clear guidance on how to test for iron deficiency, and how best to treat it both in Australia and internationally.”

Associate Professor Basricha heads the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center for Anemia Detection and Control at WEHI, which provides up-to-date and evidence-based advice to the World Health Organization. His research included pioneering large-scale clinical trials of iron supplementation in low-income countries.

“We recently discovered that iron deficiency treatment approaches have to be appropriate for different countries,” he said.

“In Australia, there have been many developments in how iron deficiency is managed in the past two decades, but as a haematologist I can see that some people are still not getting the best care. For example, some people who might benefit from it are not offered Intravenous iron this, despite clear evidence that iron levels can be quickly restored.

“We hope this review will provide clear information to clinicians in Australia and around the world, and improve the management of iron deficiency – which will have wide-ranging benefits for people’s health.”

** More of a nutritional problem

While iron deficiency is often the result of a lack of iron in the diet, it can also be a sign of serious health problems including bowel cancer or celiac disease, said Associate Professor Tai Dean, a gastroenterologist at Royal Melbourne Hospital.

“It is really important that the cause of iron deficiency is properly investigated, rather than simply directing patients to take iron supplements,” he said. “If doctors don’t take iron deficiency seriously and investigate why it occurs, serious health problems can be overlooked. In some cases it can be life-threatening. This is something we really highlighted in the review.”


Professor Basrecha’s research is supported by the Gates Foundation, the Australian National Council for Health and Medical Research, RACP, and the Victorian Government.

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