Iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia are common conditions worldwide affecting especially children and young women. In developing countries, iron deficiency is caused by poor iron intake and/or parasitic infection, whereas vegetarian dietary choices, poor iron absorption, and chronic blood loss are common causes in high-income countries. Erythropoiesis stimulating agents can result in functional iron deficiency for erythropoiesis even when stores are iron-replete. Diagnosis of iron deficiency is straightforward, except when it occurs in the context of inflammatory disorders. Oral iron salts correct absolute iron deficiency in most patients, because low hepcidin levels facilitate iron absorption. Unfortunately frequent side effects limit oral iron efficacy. Intravenous iron is increasingly utilized, because currently available preparations allow rapid normalization of total body iron even with a single infusion and are effective also in functional iron deficiency and in iron deficiency associated with inflammatory disorders. The evidence is accumulating that these preparations are safe and effective. However, long-term safety issues of high doses of iron need to be further explored.
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