What are the possible neurologic and psychiatric complications of iron deficiency anemia in children?

Updated: Sep 30, 2020
  • Author: James L Harper, MD; Chief Editor: Emmanuel C Besa, MD  more...
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Children deficient in iron may exhibit behavioral disturbances. Neurologic development is impaired in infants and scholastic performance is reduced in children of school age. The intelligence quotients (IQs) of schoolchildren deficient in iron are reported to be significantly lower than those of their nonanemic peers. Behavioral disturbances may manifest as an attention deficit disorder. Growth is impaired in infants with iron deficiency. The neurologic damage to an iron-deficient fetus results in permanent neurologic injury and typically does not resolve on its own. Iron repletion stabilizes the patient so that his or her status does not further decline.

A case-control study of 2957 children and adolescents with iron deficiency anemia and 11,828 healthy controls from the Taiwan National Health Insurance Database found that iron deficiency anemia is associated with an increased risk for psychiatric disorders. After adjusting for demographic data and risk factors for iron deficiency anemia, children and adolescents with iron deficiency anemia were at higher risk for the following [12, 12] :

  • Unipolar depressive disorder

  • Bipolar disorder

  • Anxiety disorder

  • Autism spectrum disorder

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

  • Tic disorder

  • Delayed development

  • Mental retardation

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