Iron deficiency

Lancet. 2021 Jan 16;397(10270):233-248. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(20)32594-0. Epub 2020 Dec 4.


Iron deficiency is one of the leading contributors to the global burden of disease, and particularly affects children, premenopausal women, and people in low-income and middle-income countries. Anaemia is one of many consequences of iron deficiency, and clinical and functional impairments can occur in the absence of anaemia. Iron deprivation from erythroblasts and other tissues occurs when total body stores of iron are low or when inflammation causes withholding of iron from the plasma, particularly through the action of hepcidin, the main regulator of systemic iron homoeostasis. Oral iron therapy is the first line of treatment in most cases. Hepcidin upregulation by oral iron supplementation limits the absorption efficiency of high-dose oral iron supplementation, and of oral iron during inflammation. Modern parenteral iron formulations have substantially altered iron treatment and enable rapid, safe total-dose iron replacement. An underlying cause should be sought in all patients presenting with iron deficiency: screening for coeliac disease should be considered routinely, and endoscopic investigation to exclude bleeding gastrointestinal lesions is warranted in men and postmenopausal women presenting with iron deficiency anaemia. Iron supplementation programmes in low-income countries comprise part of the solution to meeting WHO Global Nutrition Targets.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency* / drug therapy
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency* / etiology
  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Global Health*
  • Hepcidins
  • Humans
  • Iron Deficiencies
  • Iron* / administration & dosage


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Hepcidins
  • Iron