Iron deficiency is one of the most common vitamin or mineral deficiencies in the world, affecting 20% or more of women and children especially in developing countries. Adolescent women who have started menses or who are pregnant are particularly at risk for developing iron deficiency, which may ldevelop long before iron stores are exhausted and anemia ensues. Anemia (low hemoglobin or red cell volume) may lead to reduced school and work performance and may affect cognitive function, as well as leading to cardiovascular and growth problems. Diagnosis is made most simply by hemoglobin level or packed red cell volume (hematocrit) and red cell morphology, or alternatively by transferrin saturation, serum ferritin, or serum iron level. Microscopic examination of a red cell smear typically shows red cells that are small (microcytic) and pale (hypochromic).
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