Published: 2018-10-25

Iron-deficiency and pruritus: a possible explanation of their relationship

Antonella Tammaro, Camilla Chello, Marco di Fraia, Domenico Giordano, Francesca Magri, Verdiana Zollo, Francesca Romana Parisella, Gabriella De Marco


Pruritus of unknown origin is defined as itching lasting for more than 3 weeks without a clear identifiable cause. Aetiology of itching is wide ranging and includes chronic renal failure, cholestasis and internal malignancy. Iron deficiency has been described to be causative of pruritus but the mechanism underlying this association remains unclear. We report the case of a female patient with iron deficiency anemia and generalized pruritus, resolved after intravenous administration of iron-complex supplements and we explained a possible mechanism between this association.


Itch, Iron Deficiency, Anemia

Full Text:



Polat M, Oztas P, Ilhan MN, Yalçin B, Alli N. Generalized pruritus: a prospective study concerning etiology. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2008;9(1):39-44.

Rector WG Jr, Fortuin NJ, Conley CL. Non-hematologic effects of chronic iron deficiency. A study of patients with polycythemia vera treated solely with venesections. Medicine (Baltimore). 1982;61(6):382-9.

Hoffbrand AV, Ganeshaguru K, Hooton JW, Tattersall MH. Effect of iron deficiency and desferrioxamine on DNA synthesis in human cells. Br J Haematol. 1976;33(4):517-26.

Pearson HA, Robinson JE. The role of iron in host resistance. Adv Pediatr. 1976;23:1-33.

Sneddon IB, Garrets M. The significance of low serum iron levels in the causation of itching. Proc 12th Int Congress Dermatol, Munich. 1967;2:1061-3.

Vickers CFH. Nutrition and the skin: Iron deficiency in dermatology. Proceedings of Tenth Symposium on Advanced Medicine. Royal College of Physicians, London; 1974: 311-315.

Dallman PR, Beutler E, Finch CA. Effects of iron deficiency exclusive of anemia. Br J Haematol. 1978;40(2):179-84.

Hill CH, Ashwell CM, Nolin SJ, Keeley F, Billingham C, Hinek A, Starcher B Dietary iron deficiency compromises normal development of elastic fibers in the aorta and lungs of chicks. J Nutr. 2007;137(8):1895-900.