Iron deficiency is the most common and widespread nutritional disorder. Iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) affects over 1.2 billion people globally, and iron deficiency without anaemia affects even more.1,2 Even a mild deficiency can result in fatigue, poor concentration, mood changes and reduced physical endurance.2

After successful completion of this CPD activity, pharmacists should be able to:

  • Identify different iron replacement options that may be taken/used to treat or prevent iron deficiency
  • Identify potential adverse effects and interactions associated with oral iron supplementation
  • Counsel consumers on the appropriate way of administering iron, including new dosing options for non-responders.

Competencies (2016) addressed: 1.1, 1.5, 3.1, 3.2, 3.5.

Accreditation number: CAP1907A

Beyond anaemia, iron deficiency can also cause weakness, shortness of breath, pallor, cold intolerance, irritability, withdrawal behaviour, hair loss, tachycardia, restless legs and pica (unusual cravings for eating, for example, ice or clay).2–5 The efficacy of thyroid hormones is also dependent on iron, which may contribute to some of these effects.3 In addition, iron deficiency can affect immune, cardiovascular and respiratory function.2

Whilst it is important to ensure adequate iron intake, it is equally important to ensure that iron supplements are taken on medical advice only. Iron has a tendency to accumulate, causing toxicity, and even death.6,7 Other conditions such as haemochromatosis (an inherited iron overload disorder) can present with similar symptoms to iron deficiency: fatigue, weakness and lethargy.7 Treatment options are often dependent on disease state and causative factors. The cause of deficiency should always be investigated.1

Test your knowledge on this article’s assessment questions here to earn up to 2 Group 2 CPD credits.