Benefits and risks of iron therapy for chronic anaemias

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Iron is used widely for the treatment of anaemias with iron-restricted erythropoiesis. This intervention can be both beneficial and detrimental depending on the type of the underlying process. While in iron deficiency anaemia (IDA), the most frequent anaemia in the world, iron is the therapy of choice, this intervention can be harmful in the anaemia of chronic disease or anaemia associated with renal failure, the most common anaemias in hospitalized adult patients in Western countries. Iron is able to negatively affect cell-mediated immune effector mechanisms directed against invading microorganisms and tumour cells while at the same time, as an essential nutrient, it can stimulate the proliferation of these unwanted cells. In addition, iron catalyses the formation of toxic radicals leading to tissue damage or the promotion of cardiovascular events. Thus, it is essential to correctly diagnose the precise cause of anaemia and to consider the benefits and hazards of targeted iron therapy. © 2005 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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