Iron-Deficiency and Anaemia in Australia: Prevalence and Treatment Options

  • Written by Jennifer Dawson

Iron nutritional deficiency is the most common nutritional problem in the world and it’s no different in Australia with over one million Aussies affected by iron-deficiency or anaemia. It particularly affects children and women of child-bearing age as well as other vulnerable groups in society such as indigenous groups, babies and toddlers. The lack of iron in the body leads to iron-deficiency anaemia where the red blood cell production falls drastically. Once the iron stored in the body is depleted, this has serious consequences on general health. Following iron-rich diets and taking supplements are ways to combat iron-deficiency.


Implications of Iron Deficiency and Iron-Deficiency Anaemia

You need iron in the body for red blood cell production, to attain a healthy immune system, and muscle strength. Iron-deficiency can decrease memory, diminish concentration and impair learning. It affects the immune system making you vulnerable to illnesses as well as decreasing aerobic sports performance.

The condition also has adverse outcomes on pregnant women causing low-birth weights and premature delivery. It also causes anaemia which is a severe blood disorder. Without enough iron in the body, you will develop iron-deficiency anaemia that will, in turn, cause decreases in oxygen transport throughout the body. This affects physical and mental health with symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, decreased libido and anxiety, common amongst those affected by the disorder.


Tackling Iron-Deficiency

Blood tests confirm the diagnosis of iron-deficiency in the body. Your doctor will also ask questions about your health including medications that are taken, diet and lifestyle. High-risk groups such as menstruating women, expectant mothers, babies, and vegetarians receive special attention because they may not be getting enough iron through food or are losing blood.

Young Australian women are also in the spotlight because of fad diets that eliminate sources of iron in their diets.

Getting enough iron in the body is important for red blood cell production. Diets are enhanced to include rich sources of iron such as dark greens, red meat and pulses. If your lack of iron stems from poor absorption of the mineral, your doctor will order tests for coeliac disease. To enhance iron stores in the body, oral tablets may be prescribed and if you have difficulties in taking them, injections may be prescribed. Not all iron transfusions are well-tolerated. For example, medical lawsuits have been filed due to injuries from serious Injectafer infusion side effects. It may cause hypophosphatemia, a condition where phosphate levels in the body drop drastically. Breathing difficulties, confusion, muscle weakness and damage are some of the side effects which can become life-threatening. In addition, the body cannot eliminate loads of iron and accidental poisoning might occur.   


The number of Australians affected by iron-deficiency has been increasing since 2008 according to a Medibank study. If untreated, it can lead to iron-deficiency anaemia. By watching out for signs of iron-deficiency, doing blood tests and consulting your GP, you can treat the lack of iron in the body by improving diets and supplements.

Image: https://unsplash.com/photos/pszENPYeVj4



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