How are defects in epithelial tissues related to iron deficiency anemia?

Updated: Sep 07, 2019
  • Author: James L Harper, MD; Chief Editor: Emmanuel C Besa, MD  more...
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Defects in structure and function of epithelial tissues may be observed in iron deficiency. Fingernails may become brittle or longitudinally ridged, with the development of koilonychia (spoon-shaped nails). The tongue may show atrophy of the lingual papillae and develop a glossy appearance. Angular stomatitis may occur with fissures at the corners of the mouth.

Dysphagia may occur with solid foods, with webbing of the mucosa at the junction of the hypopharynx and the esophagus (Plummer-Vinson syndrome); this has been associated with squamous cell carcinoma of the cricoid area. Atrophic gastritis occurs in iron deficiency with progressive loss of acid secretion, pepsin, and intrinsic factor and development of an antibody to gastric parietal cells. Small intestinal villi become blunted.

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