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Iron deficiency anemia overview

Published: July 16, 2009. Updated: August 09, 2009

Iron deficiency anemia occurs when the dietary intake or absorption of iron is insufficient, and hemoglobin, which contains iron, cannot be formed.

Clinical suspicion

Microcytic hypochromic anemia.


  • serum ferritin <10ng/ml in woman and <20ng/ml in men indicates decreased iron stores. However, since ferritin is an acute phase reactant it may rise in patients with iron deficiency anemia. If level is >200ng/ml this excludes the diagnosis of iron deficiency anemia.
  • Serum iron of <50ug/dl and total iron binding capacity of >420ug/dl supports the diagnosis.
  • bone marrow biopsy with absent staining for iron is the definitive diagnosis but is used only when serum ferritin fails to confirm a diagnosis.

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