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Iron deficiency without anaemia: a diagnosis that matters.

Iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) currently affects 1.2 billion people and iron deficiency without anaemia (IDWA) is at least twice as common. IDWA is poorly recognised by clinicians despite its high prevalence, probably because of suboptimal screening recommendations. Diagnosing IDWA relies on a combination of tests, including haemoglobin and ferritin levels, as well as transferrin saturation. Although the causes of iron deficiency may sometimes be obvious, many tend to be overlooked. Iron sufficiency throughout pregnancy is necessary for maternal and foetal health. Preoperative IDWA must be corrected to reduce the risk of transfusion and postoperative anaemia. Oral iron is the first-line treatment for managing IDWA; however, intravenous supplementation should be used in chronic inflammatory conditions and when oral therapy is poorly tolerated or ineffective. This review considers the causes and clinical features of IDWA, calls for greater awareness of the condition, and proposes diagnostic and management algorithms.

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