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“Is an iron deficiency common with Sjögren’s and do you recommend an iron transfusion?”

by Don Thomas, MD, FACP, FACR

Iron deficiency is not a common problem with Sjögren’s. It is much more common in people who have its sister autoimmune disease, lupus. However, this does not have to do with the disease (lupus). It is because lupus most commonly occurs in women of child-bearing age and therefore are prone to iron deficiency due to blood loss from monthly menstruation. One of the most important things to remember about iron deficiency is that a cause must always be found. If it occurs in a man or in a non-menstruating woman, then a bleeding source must be found. This can be obvious (such as a recent surgery or bleeding episode) or not obvious. If not obvious, we usually do endoscopies where a stomach doctor (gastroenterologist) looks down into the esophagus and stomach (upper endoscopy) or up into the colon (colonoscopy) to see if a bleeding source can be identified. We usually try to normalize the iron in someone with iron deficiency using an iron supplement. However, if someone doesn’t tolerate it (such as due to it being too constipating) or if pills don’t correct the iron deficiency, then we will give IV (intravenous) iron.

This article was first printed in  the Foundation's patient newsletter for members