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Anemia in Older Persons - Article
ABSTRACT: Anemia in older persons is commonly overlooked despite mounting evidence that low hemoglobin levels are a significant marker of physiologic decline. Using the World Health Organization definition of anemia (hemoglobin level less than 13 g per dL [130 g per L] in men and less than 12 g per dL [120 g per L] in women), more than 10 percent of persons older than 65 years are anemic. The prevalence increases with age, approaching 50 percent in chronically ill patients living in nursing homes. There is increasing evidence that even mild anemia is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Anemia warrants evaluation in all older persons, except those at the end of life or who decline interventions. About one third of persons have anemia secondary to a nutritional deficiency, one third have anemia caused by chronic inflammation or chronic kidney disease, and one third have unexplained anemia. Nutritional anemia is effectively treated with vitamin or iron replacement. Iron deficiency anemia often is caused by gastrointestinal bleeding and requires further investigation in most patients. Anemia of chronic inflammation or chronic kidney disease may respond to treatment of the underlying disease and selective use of erythropoiesis-stimulating agents. The treatment of unexplained anemia is difficult, and there is little evidence that treatment decreases morbidity and mortality, or improves quality of life. Occasionally, anemia may be caused by less common but potentially treatable conditions, such as autoimmune hemolytic anemia, malignancy, or myelodysplastic syndrome.
ABSTRACT: Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional disorder worldwide and accounts for approximately one-half of anemia cases. The diagnosis of iron deficiency anemia is confirmed by the findings of low iron stores and a hemoglobin level two standard deviations below normal. Women should be screened during pregnancy, and children screened at one year of age. Supplemental iron may be given initially, followed by further workup if the patient is not responsive to therapy. Men and postmenopausal women should not be screened, but should be evaluated with gastrointestinal endoscopy if diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia. The underlying cause should be treated, and oral iron therapy can be initiated to replenish iron stores. Parenteral therapy may be used in patients who cannot tolerate or absorb oral preparations.