From iron deficiency to anaemia caused by iron deficiency (iron-deficiency anaemia)

Iron deficiency causes tiredness and lack of energy, but it can be easily treated – ideally, before the condition gets out of hand.
Essentially, anyone can, at any age, suffer from a lack of iron (also known as iron deficiency syndrome) caused by insufficient intake, malabsorbtion in the intestine, or a sufficiently high loss of iron.

Menstruating women, children, elderly people, elite athletes, but also those suffering from intestinal disorders or other chronic illnesses, are all at risk of iron deficiency or, in the worst case, iron deficiency anaemia.

Signs of iron deficiency range from tiredness, lack of energy and hair loss to (in the case of iron deficiency anaemia) heart palpitations and shortness of breath.

The iron balance
On average, a healthy man has 4 g of iron in his body and a healthy woman has 3 g. Two-thirds of this is iron that is available to the body’s organs – mainly in the red blood-cell protein haemoglobin and, to a far lesser extent, in myoglobin, which transports oxygen in the heart and skeletal muscle tissue, and is also an important factor in the proteins involved in metabolism.

One-third of the iron is present in stored form, in the iron-storing proteins ferritin and haemosiderin, in the liver, bone marrow, spleen and intestinal mucosa.

Iron loss – what causes it

Every day, the processes to regenerate the skin and intestinal and urogenital mucosae deplete our bodies of around 1–2 mg of iron, which needs to be replaced through our food.

What constitutes iron deficiency?
If iron intake is too low, the intestine is not absorbing enough of it or iron loss is too high, the iron balance is negative.

This leads to the following iron-deficient conditions, in descending order:

Depletion of iron stores
Iron deficiency without anaemia:

iron-dependent metabolic processes can be adversely affected
Iron deficiency anaemia (anaemia as a result of iron deficiency)


Anaemia increases the risk of cardiovascular death
At the Annual Congress of the European Society of Cardiology, a study review was presented, which concluded that anaemia appeared to increase the risk of death from a cardiovascular event.

In this regard, lower haemoglobin would also be considered as an additional heart risk.

Intravenous iron as an effective treatment for low haemoglobin
Iron that is administered intravenously effectively increases haemoglobin and reduces iron-dependent anaemia, as demonstrated by a study published in the British Medical Journal.

This also reduces the need for blood transfusions.

Further reading (in German):
Eisenmangel –‎