How is iron deficiency anemia defined and how does it occur?

Updated: Sep 07, 2019
  • Author: James L Harper, MD; Chief Editor: Emmanuel C Besa, MD  more...
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Iron deficiency is defined as a decreased total iron body content. Iron deficiency anemia occurs when iron deficiency is severe enough to diminish erythropoiesis and cause the development of anemia. Iron deficiency is the most prevalent single deficiency state on a worldwide basis. It is important economically because it diminishes the capability of individuals who are affected to perform physical labor, and it diminishes both growth and learning in children.

Posthemorrhagic anemia is discussed in this article because it is an important cause of iron deficiency. The acute and potentially catastrophic problems of hypoxia and shock that can occur from significant hemorrhage or severe iron deficiency are discussed elsewhere; however, daily blood losses can be small and may be overlooked.

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