Iron Deficiency


About this activity

Iron deficiency is a common health issue in Australia, with anaemia affecting approximately 8% of children aged <5 years, 15% of non-pregnant premenopausal women and 12% of pregnant women. Consequently, iron deficiency is an important diagnosis to consider for patients presenting to general practitioners with symptoms such as fatigue and pallor.

Although there are no Australian prevalence estimates for iron deficiency in infants and toddlers, a 2022 study found that approximately 90% of infants aged 6–11.9 months and 25% of toddlers aged 1–2 years had inadequate iron intake. Iron requirements increase during adolescence, and women are particularly susceptible to iron deficiency because of menstrual blood loss.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has reported that 40% of girls aged 14–18 years have inadequate iron intake to meet physiological demands. Iron demand increases three-fold during pregnancy, reaching a peak in the third trimester. In total, 1000–1200 mg of iron is required. Iron deficiency rates of almost 20% during pregnancy have been reported in some Australian studies.

Heavy menstrual bleeding (HMB) is the most common presentation of abnormal uterine bleeding in premenopausal women in the general practice setting, affecting 25–30% of women of reproductive age. Continued HMB results in a high risk of developing iron deficiency anaemia.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) affects >80,000 Australians, and it is predicted that one in 200 Australians will develop IBD. Patients with IBD often have iron deficiency anaemia due to both chronic blood loss and impaired iron absorption.

This module considers the investigation and management of iron deficiency in general practice. To complete this CPD Activity, you should complete the cases below.

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Learning Outcomes

At the end of this activity, participants will be able to:
• list the factors that increase the risk of iron deficiency in infancy and adolescence
• outline the potential causes of abnormal uterine bleeding in premenopausal women
• discuss iron demand in pregnancy, highlighting major routes of loss and gain
• describe the additional factors that must be considered when considering ferritin levels in a patient with inflammatory bowel disease.