Iron deficiency

Medical Specialties: Family practice, Internal medicine, Preventative medicine

Clinical Definition

Iron deficiency is a nutritional deficit, which occurs due to inadequate levels of iron in the body. Iron is an essential nutrient for several functions, such as oxygen binding and transport, muscle oxygen use and neurotransmitter synthesis. A deficiency in iron can cause a decrease in immune system functioning ability and compromise growth and development. Iron deficiency has differing levels of severity: It may not be acute enough to cause health impairment, or it can progress to anemia, which can affect various organs in the body.

In Our Own Words

Iron is a mineral the body needs in order to properly function. Iron deficiency is a lack of iron in the body. It is a very common nutritional deficiency. Inadequate levels of iron interfere with how the muscles store and use oxygen. Iron is also needed to transport oxygen throughout the body.


If the body has depleted or low iron levels, symptoms may not always occur. If iron levels become low enough, a condition known as anemia can develop. Iron deficiency anemia can lead to problems, such as memory difficulties, fatigue and decreased ability to fight infection. 

Relevant Conditions
Side Effects
  • Irritability
  • Pale skin
  • Tiredness, weakness and fatigue
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  • Johns Hopkins Medicine. “Iron-Deficiency Anemia.” Accessed September 2013.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Iron and Iron Deficiency.” Accessed September 2013.
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