Women and Anemia

Women and Anemia

While there are numerous classifications of anemia in women, the most significant contributor to the development of anemia is iron deficiency.1 Iron deficiency is the most prevalent nutritional disorder in the world and is the only nutrient deficiency that is also significantly widespread in industrialized countries.2


Iron Deficiency Anemia

Iron deficiency anemia is a common anemia (characterized by low red blood cell level) caused by insufficient dietary intake and absorption of iron and/or iron loss from bleeding, which can occur from a variety of sources, such as intestinal, uterine, or from the urinary tract.


  • 50% of all anemia cases are due to iron deficiency. But the proportion may vary among population groups and in different areas, depending on local conditions.3
  • A moderate degree of iron deficiency anemia affects 9% of the worldwide population and is more prevalent in women than men.3
  • World estimates of iron deficiency occurrence are somewhat vague, but the true number probably exceeds one billion people.3

Megaloblastic Anemia

Megaloblastic anemia is caused by incomplete formation of the red blood cell, resulting in large numbers of immature and incompletely developed cells. These red blood cells do not function like healthy red blood cells. They crowd out the healthy cells, causing anemia. Since these cells are underdeveloped, they also have a short life expectancy.4 Low levels of vitamin B12 or folate are the most common causes of this type of anemia.


  • Megaloblastic anemia is most common in the elderly, with 1 in 8000 being affected.5
  • This type of anemia can be seen in all races but is particularly common in Nordic people.5
  • There is an association with other autoimmune diseases, particularly thyroid disease, Addison’s disease, and vitiligo.5
  • Prevalence of this anemia in the U.S. is rather low, with fewer than 200,000 people affected.

Pernicious Anemia

Pernicious anemia (PA), a form of megaloblastic anemia, is a rare disorder in which the body does not absorb enough vitamin B12 from the digestive tract, resulting in an inadequate amount of red blood cells (RBCs) being produced. It is also referred to as vitamin B12-deficient anemia.



  • One in 680 people (0.15% of the population) in the U.S. have PA.
  • PA is estimated to affect 0.1% of the general population and 1.9% of those over 60, accounting for 20–50% of vitamin B12 deficiency in adults.6
  • A study of Americans over the age of 65 years found that the prevalence of low vitamin B12 detected in the blood was 15%. However, this is probably an underestimate, considering the increasing population of the elderly and the widespread use of drugs that reduce stomach acidity.
  • The adult form of PA is most prevalent among individuals of either Celtic (i.e., English, Irish, Scottish) or Scandinavian origin. In these groups, 10–20 cases per 100,000 people occur per year. Pernicious anemia is reported less commonly in people of other racial backgrounds.7
  • Although the disease was once believed to be rare in Native American people and uncommon in black people, its incidence in these groups now appears to be higher than previous estimates suggested.7
  • Adult PA usually occurs in people aged 40–70 years. Among white people, the mean age of onset is 60 years, whereas it occurs at a younger age in black people (mean age of 50 years).7
  • A female predominance has been reported in England, Scandinavia, and among persons of African descent (1.5:1). However, data in the United States show an equal sex distribution.7

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1Worldwide prevalence of anaemia 1993–2005 [Internet]. WHO global database on anaemia. Edited by Bruno de Benoist, Erin McLean, Ines Egli, and Mary Cogswell; ISBN 978 92 4 159665 7. [cited 2013 Mar 12] Available from: http://www.who.int/vmnis/publications/anaemia_prevalence/en/index.html

2WHO website [Internet]. [cited 2013 Mar 12] Available from: http://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/ida/en/index.html

3Website [Internet]. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_deficiency_anemia

4Website [Internet]. Available from: http://www.healthline.com/health/megaloblastic-anemia

5Kumar P, Clark M. Clinical Medicine. Fourth Ed. WB Saunders, 2002.

6Website [Internet]. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megaloblastic_anemia

7Website [Internet]. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pernicious_anemia

8Website [Internet]. Available from: http://misc.medscape.com/pi/iphone/medscapeapp/html/A204930-business.html