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Iron deficiency widespread

Doctors have released a warning this week that a lack of iron could be a bigger problem than what most people think.

One in every four women and one in every six men are iron deficient.

While at first glance, this statistic may not warrant much concern, the risks of fatal chronic illnesses and related health implications, which substantially increase in those suffering form iron deficiency, should be getting our attention.

At least that’s the message coming from leading health professionals this week.

Iron deficiency and related cases of anaemia are becoming more widespread and going undiagnosed both in Australia and across the globe, they argued, calling for screening to become routine in the health system.

“Iron deficiency has terrible associated health costs such as poor pregnancy outcomes, a lower quality of life, unnecessary blood transfusion, depression, low operative and surgical outcomes, shorter duration of breastfeeding and delayed cognitive and motor functions in new-borns,” said Associate Professor Khalafallah, a Tasmanian haematologist and iron product producer.

“This condition is costing Australians millions of dollars each year in lost productivity, decreased educational performance, prolonged stays in hospital after surgery and potentially mortality,” Khalafallah added.

Pregnant women, children, heart patients and indigenous people in remote areas were identified as those most at risk from health complications related to iron deficiency.

The news comes after a world-first international clinical study looked into treating iron deficiency and iron deficiency anaemia in pregnancy in Adelaide and Hobart.

The study found that iron deficiency was more common in pregnancy than first thought, and more often than not goes undiagnosed, with associated risks during pregnancy, birth and formative years for the newborn.

Dr Bernd Froessler, an anesthetist and lead investigator of the study, argued that obstetricians should start iron deficiency screening from the very first appointment.

A similar study is investigating the link between iron deficiency and heart failure found it caused an increase in patient mortality rates and decrease in quality of life. While it is unclear if iron deficiency is a cause or marker of heart failure, correcting the deficiency is likely to have a positive outcome on sufferers.

“We know that correcting iron deficiency alone can be very beneficial” Assoc Prof Khalafallah said, confident that new treatments available, like intravenous iron, already having a huge effect on iron levels for chronically ill patients, elective surgery and in pregnancy.

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