Am I at risk?

Are you worried that you might be at risk of iron deficiency? People of all ages can become iron deficient, but there are certain long-term conditions and lifestyle choices that make iron deficiency more likely. These include conditions that may cause blood loss, affect how well you absorb iron from your food, limit your intake of iron rich foods, or increase the amount of iron that your body needs.

Click on the icons below for further information about each condition, how it can affect your iron levels, the symptoms that can be caused, and how your doctor can help. Clicking on the inflammatory bowel disease icon will take you to the area of the website that can provide detailed information for Inflammatory Bowel Disease patients.

Coeliac Disease

Coeliac disease is a condition where your immune system attacks your intestines when you eat gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye. This can lead to damaged or inflamed intestines meaning that less iron and other nutrients can be absorbed from your diet. Coeliac disease can also lead to bleeding in your gastrointestinal tract and therefore an increased loss of iron from your body. Having coeliac disease increases your chances of also being iron deficient and you may have even been found to be iron deficient by your doctors before you were diagnosed with coeliac disease.

Chronic Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney disease is when you have kidney damage or reduced kidney function for more than three months. Many factors mean that whether you are treated with dialysis or not, with CKD you are at greater risk of iron deficiency. Up to half of people with CKD stages 2-5 have some form of iron deficiency. The general reasons for iron deficiency include frequent blood tests, reduced intake of iron-rich foods and inflammation. On top of these reasons, being treated with erythropoiesis stimulating agents (ESAs) and/or undergoing regular dialysis can further increase your risk of iron deficiency.


Both the cancer itself and some cancer treatments can lead to iron deficiency and/or anaemia. Around 30% to 45% of people across all types of cancer are iron deficient. The reasons for this can depend on the type of cancer that you have. Gastrointestinal and colorectal cancer can cause blood loss through internal bleeding and other cancers that start in or spread to your bone marrow can take up space that would normally be used in the production of healthy red blood cells. Chemotherapy can also cause anaemia by suppressing the production of red blood cells in your bone marrow.


Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is the name for long term conditions where regions of your intestines become inflamed. The two most common forms of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (UC). Up to 76% of people with IBD may experience iron deficiency anaemia, due to long term internal bleeding within the intestines, reduced absorption of iron from food and reduced intake of iron-rich foods. As well as iron deficiency, IBD can cause you to become anaemic for other reasons too.

Other Risk Factors

There are more conditions that are associated with iron deficiency than are listed on this page. For example, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), restless leg syndrome (RLS) and special diets, for example if you are vegetarian or vegan, can all increase your risk of iron deficiency. Each of these factors will now be discussed in more detail.