What is the role of peripheral smear findings in the diagnosis of iron deficiency anemia?

Updated: Sep 07, 2019
  • Author: James L Harper, MD; Chief Editor: Emmanuel C Besa, MD  more...
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Examination of the peripheral smear is an important part of the workup of patients with anemia. Examination of the erythrocytes shows microcytic and hypochromic red blood cells in chronic iron deficiency anemia. The microcytosis is apparent in the smear long before the MCV is decreased after an event producing iron deficiency. Platelets usually are increased in this disorder.

In iron deficiency anemia, unlike thalassemia, target cells usually are not present, and anisocytosis and poikilocytosis are not marked. This condition lacks the intraerythrocytic crystals seen in hemoglobin C disorders.

Combined folate deficiency and iron deficiency are commonplace in areas of the world with little fresh produce and meat. The peripheral smear reveals a population of macrocytes mixed among the microcytic hypochromic cells. This combination can normalize the MCV.

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