Background: Men and postmenopausal women with iron deficiency anemia are routinely evaluated to exclude a gastrointestinal source of suspected internal bleeding. Iron deficiency anemia in premenopausal women is often treated with simple iron replacement under the assumption that the condition is due to excessive menstrual blood loss.
Objectives: To determine the yield of endoscopy evaluations in premenopausal women with iron deficiency anemia.
Methods: Upper and lower gastrointestinal endoscopic examinations were conducted in 45 premenopausal women with iron deficiency anemia not related to gynecologic or nutritional causes.
Results: Forty-three of the 45 women fulfilled the entry criteria and were enrolled. Their mean age was 35 +/- 15 years and their mean hemoglobin level 9.3 +/- 2.3 g/dl. Twenty-eight upper gastrointestinal lesions were demonstrated in 24 of the 43 patients (55.8%): erosive gastritis in 12 (27.9%), erosive duodenitis in 4 (9.3%), erosive esophagitis in 3 (7.0%), hiatus hernia (with Cameron lesions) in 3 (7.0%), active duodenal ulcer in 1 (2.3%) and hyperplastic polyp (10 mm) in 1 (2.3%). Five lower gastrointestinal lesions were detected in 5 patients (16.3%): 2 (4.6%) had adenocarcinoma of the right colon, 2 (4.6%) had pedunculate adenomatous polyp > 10 mm, and 1 (2.3%) had segmental colitis (Crohn's disease). One patient (2.3%) had pathologic findings in both the upper and lower gastrointestinal tracts.
Conclusions: Our findings of a gastrointestinal source of chronic blood loss in 28 of 43 premenopausal women with iron deficiency anemia (65.1%) suggest that this population will benefit from bi-directional endoscopic evaluation of the gastrointestinal tract.