Iron deficiency anaemia in adults


Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficit worldwide and the most common cause of anaemia. In women of childbearing age, iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) is usually due to the increased demands of pregnancy or breastfeeding, or to excess blood loss due to heavy menstruation. In men and postmenopausal women, the cause is usually blood loss.

Anaemia in children under 6 months can be caused by iron deficiency in the mother and prevention in infants is related to prevention in pregnant women. Iron deficiency anaemia is not a diagnosis in itself and investigations are required to determine the underlying cause. It may be the only symptom of intestinal cancers. Iron deficiency may respond to dietary measures as an increase in dietary iron is not sufficient to replenish the iron stores in frank iron deficiency anaemia. Supplementary iron will be required.

This module covers the causes and implications of iron deficiency anaemia and provides strategies for diagnosis, management, and prevention. It is aimed at nurses, midwives, Aboriginal health practitioners and workers, as they are usually responsible for health checks and patient education. It is also appropriate for primary health service managers responsible for program planning. Although iron deficiency anaemia is a very common presentation in primary care, the principles covered in this module are applicable across the health continuum.

This module is one of three modules related to iron deficiency. They are linked and it is recommended that participants undertake all three modules: Iron deficiency anaemia in adults, Iron deficiency anaemia in children and Intravenous iron – Safe administration.

Learning Objectives

At the end of this module participants will be able to:

  • Understand the importance of managing iron deficiency anaemia.
  • Recognise symptoms that could indicate iron deficiency anaemia.
  • Understand how to manage iron deficiency anaemia.
  • Explain why it is important to determine the cause of iron deficiency anaemia.
  • Discuss strategies to prevent iron deficiency anaemia.

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