Iron deficiency and iron therapy

Iron is essential for the body to make haemoglobin (Hb), a pigment that makes red blood cells red and carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body

Low iron levels (iron deficiency) in the body can cause low haemoglobin levels. Conversely, too much iron in the body can lead to iron overload (haemochromatosis) and cause damage in adults.

Iron deficiency is a much more common problem than iron overload.

See below information on what iron deficiency is, including treatments and translated fact sheets.

Iron deficiency

If your iron levels are currently low, or you are at risk of having low levels in the future, your doctor may advise you to increase your iron intake through food or prescribe iron therapy.

Causes of iron deficiency include:

  • blood loss, for example from heavy periods or gastrointestinal conditions or disease (eg an ulcer, a colon polyp or even bowel cancer)
  • not enough iron in the diet
  • poor absorption of iron in the diet, for example in untreated coeliac disease or after obesity surgery
  • increased demand for iron, for example in pregnancy or during rapid growth in children.

Often there is more than one cause.

More information about iron deficiency, its causes and symptoms can be found in the Gastroenterology Society of Australia’s Health Information Fact Sheet – Iron Deficiency.

For more information about increasing your iron intake through food, please refer to the Nutrition Australia website.

Iron deficiency fact sheet, includes 18 translated versions

This fact sheet is general information about iron for patients, families and carers (PDF166KB)

It is also available in 18 different languages below: 

Treatment options

Depending on your situation, your doctor may recommend the following treatment options:

  • Iron tablets/liquids
  • Iron infusions

Iron tablets/liquids

Your doctor may recommend that you take iron tablets/liquids as they are are a safe, effective and easy way to increase your iron levels.

Ask your doctor how long you need to take them for and re-check your levels once the cause of your low iron levels has been sorted out.

Read the guide to taking iron tablets (PDF 121KB) to help explain:

  • why iron tablets are important
  • how they work
  • effective way to take iron tablets
  • how to reduce any side effects. 

This guide is also available in 18 different languages. Please read the consumer fact sheets section to find the guide in your language.

Taking iron tablets fact sheet, includes 18 translated versions

This fact sheet is a guide to taking iron tablets for patients, families and carers (PDF 121KB).

It is also available in 18 different languages below:

Iron infusions

Your doctor may recommend that you have an “Intravenous” or “IV” iron infusion. This means giving iron (a brown liquid) directly into the blood stream of the body through a vein. A needle placed into a vein (usually in the back of the hand or arm) and attached to a drip. This brown fluid is slowly “dripped” (infused) into the vein and mixes with the blood in your body.

Read the Intravenous (IV) iron infusions fact sheet (PDF 108KB) to answer some common questions about IV iron infusions, including how the therapy is given, why you might need IV iron and its risks and benefits.

This guide is also available in 18 different languages. Please read the fact sheets section to find the guide in your language.

Receiving iron infusions fact sheet, includes 18 translated versions

This fact sheet includes information about intravenous (IV) iron infusions for patients, families and carers (PDF 108KB)

It is also available in 18 different languages below:

Further information

More information about iron deficiency, its causes and symptoms can be found on the Gastroenterology Society of Australia's website.