Iron is one of the most important elements in our body. It plays an essential role in the
functioning of proteins to ensure brain function and development, optimize the immune
system as well as aid in energy generation. Our red blood cells also use iron to build
hemoglobin for delivering oxygen in the body.
Iron deficiency occurs due to insufficient iron supply to meet the body’s demand. In late
stage, anaemia happens and severe anemia can be life-threatening as it leads to heart
Unfortunately, in east and southeast Asia, about 20% of women (age 15- 49) suffer from
iron deficiency, usually from a lack of iron. Commonly, this is due to poor iron intake
(such as vegetarian diet) or heavy menstrual blood loss.
Signs of iron deficiency include weakness, fatigue, difficulty in concentrating, insomnia
or brittle hair and nails.
Diagnosis and Treatment
A simple blood test is needed to diagnose. A low ferritin level <30μg/L indicates
iron deficiency and a haemoglobin <12 g/dl suggests anaemia.
Treatment involves dietary intake of food rich in iron (such as spinach, broccoli, red
meats and liver) and/or iron supplement. For mild deficiency, oral iron supplement is
sufficient. In severe iron deficiency anaemia, intravenous iron infusion is recommended.
Intravenous supplementation is faster replacement with no gastrointestinal side-effect
such as constipation. Blood transfusion is rarely indicated.