Iron deficiency anemia in inflammatory bowel disease

Kaitha S1, Bashir M1, Ali T1. World J Gastrointest Pathophysiol. 2015 Aug 15;6(3):62-72. doi: 10.4291/wjgp.v6.i3.62.
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1Sindhu Kaitha, Tauseef Ali, Department of Medicine, Section of Gastroenterology, Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, OK 73104, United States.


Anemia is a common extraintestinal manifestation of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and is frequently overlooked as a complication. Patients with IBD are commonly found to have iron deficiency anemia (IDA) secondary to chronic blood loss, and impaired iron absorption due to tissue inflammation. Patients with iron deficiency may not always manifest with signs and symptoms; so, hemoglobin levels in patients with IBD must be regularly monitored for earlier detection of anemia. IDA in IBD is associated with poor quality of life, necessitating prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment. IDA is often associated with inflammation in patients with IBD. Thus, commonly used laboratory parameters are inadequate to diagnose IDA, and newer iron indices, such as reticulocyte hemoglobin content or percentage of hypochromic red cells or zinc protoporphyrin, are required to differentiate IDA from anemia of chronic disease. Oral iron preparations are available and are used in patients with mild disease activity. These preparations are inexpensive and convenient, but can produce gastrointestinal side effects, such as abdominal pain and diarrhea, that limit their use and patient compliance. These preparations are partly absorbed due to inflammation. Non-absorbed iron can be toxic and worsen IBD disease activity. Although cost-effective intravenous iron formulations are widely available and have improved safety profiles, physicians are reluctant to use them. We present a review of the pathophysiologic mechanisms of IDA in IBD, improved diagnostic and therapeutic strategies, efficacy, and safety of iron replacement in IBD.

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