Researchers highlight the need to improve diagnosis, treatment of iron deficiency in women

A new article has highlighted the need to improve diagnosis and treatment of one of the most common conditions affecting women worldwide – iron deficiency.

Researchers highlight the need to improve diagnosis, treatment of iron deficiency in women
Image Credit: The University of Western Australia

“The misogyny of iron deficiency”, published today in Anesthesia to coincide with International Women’s Day, was written by researchers from The University of Western Australia and University College London and addresses the history of iron deficiency anemia and how women’s health has often been overlooked.

Team lead Professor Toby Richards, Lawrence-Brown Chair in Vascular Surgery at UWA, is calling for greater recognition and equality for women’s health.

Professor Richards said statistics showed one in three women would need to take iron supplements at some point in their life.

Our figures show that up to 18 per cent of women who appear fit and healthy are actually deficient in iron, with heavy menstrual bleeding the most common cause. Symptoms reported by women range from fatigue to brain fog, hair loss and eating ice.”

Toby Richards, Team Lead Professor, Lawrence-Brown Chair in Vascular Surgery at UWA

Professor Richards said iron deficiency was a particular problem for women involved in fitness or sport with up to one in five athletes affected.

“Issues with a women’s menstrual cycle and particularly heavy periods are surprisingly common and often not recognized with more than half also suffering iron deficiency.

“It’s so common its hiding in plain sight and both are under-diagnosed issues in women’s health. Unfortunately, there has been a dogma to accept these as ‘in the normal range’ for women.”

Professor Richards’ team also recently surveyed two groups of women, including 68 triathletes and 181 students, at UWA’s recent Orientation Day.

The women completed a simple questionnaire about previous iron status, menstrual blood loss, diet and motherhood. They were then tested for anemia. Of the 181 women tested 14.5 per cent or one in seven women were anemic and most were unaware.

This is alarming that so many apparently fit and healthy women are actually anemic, which may impact on their physical and mental health."

Toby Richards

He said many women simply coped with constant tiredness among a host of other symptoms, without addressing the root cause.

“We want to raise awareness of these conditions and help women recognize the signs and symptoms, in order to get the treatment that their body needs to improve their health and welfare.”


  1. Maria Vonada Maria Vonada United States says:

    What happens when you have anemia and are taking iron supplements for weeks with vitamin c? You then get sick as the five stages of toxicity mention. You have an endoscopy and see mucus damage? You still have terrible tingling upon moving you legs.?  
    What is too much iron? How can you get it out of your system if you have too much?
    The doctors I see do not think this is why im feeling intentionally bad. Why my legs tingly like never before. I have insomnia. I used to sleep 8-9 hours no problem. I have absolutely not sec drive.  
    My iron numbers are not too bad, from what they say. But it is the vomiting and how closely I followed the stages, but now what?? Am I better? Does iron leave a postmenopausal women's body?  Will the next thing be liver failure or kidney failure?  

    What can I say to get the doctors to hear me? What words will work?

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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