Clinical topics in iron deficiency

C. Annaloro, D. Lambertenghi Deliliers, A. Oriani, G. Lambertenghi Deliliers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficit and the most frequent cause of anemia in the world. The so-called 'sport anemia' is commonly observed in training athletes, and is characterized by a transient decrease in hemoglobin and ferritin levels. There is general agreement that this term encompasses a condition which should more properly be defined as 'pseudoanemia', since it reflects an increase in plasma volume; despite the dilutional effect, there is an increase in the absolute mass of red cells. Nevertheless, various circumstances do place athletes at risk of developing sideropenia, including an exercise-related increase in iron losses (mainly through the digestive tract) and abnormalities in nutritional behaviour. Furthermore, the above-mentioned expansion of the erythroid mass may increase iron requirements, and thus amplify the effects of a previous borderline deficiency. Even in the absence of clearcut anemia, sideropenia may have multiple negative effects on athletes. Therefore, although generalized iron supplementation is not advisable, care should be taken to identify those athletes at risk of developing iron deficiency. Sideropenic anemia is a common finding in elderly patients. The problems relating to its differential diagnosis with chronic disorders are well known; it should also be pointed out that both conditions may coexist. In the absence of any generally obvious alternative explanation, the discovery of iron deficiency anemia in the elderly should be considered as an indication for a thorough investigation of the digestive tract. Neoplasms are the most common findings. Sideropenia during pregnancy is a very common condition in both developed and underdeveloped countries; due to its exceedingly high frequency, it is generally considered a benign condition, and fetuses can also tolerate severe degrees of hyposideremia. Nevertheless, iron deficiency can lead to obstetrical complications, particularly premature delivery. Since the efficiency of iron extraction increases with the time of gestation, the effects of sideropenia on the newborn may frequently be underestimated; furthermore, it has been suggested that severe neonatal sideropenia may also have late negative developmental effects. Finally, guidelines are offered concerning the optimal treatment of iron deficiency conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-162
Number of pages8
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1997


  • Elderly anemia
  • Pregnancy
  • Sideropenia
  • Sport anemia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Clinical topics in iron deficiency'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this