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Understanding Iron Deficiency Symptoms

Anemia is a healthcare condition where the levels of hemoglobin in your red blood cell drop. Hemoglobin is a protein whose prime function is to carry oxygen to your cell tissues. Iron deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia that happens when your body doesn’t have adequate iron.

Iron Deficiency Symptoms

When there is a scarcity of iron in your blood, the rest of the body can’t get its required oxygen. This leads to a condition called anemia. Iron deficiency symptoms depend on multifarious factors, including your age, the present health condition, the severity of anemia, and so on.

Iron Deficiency Symptoms

Some people may not experience any low iron symptoms at the beginning as they can be mild at first. As per the American Society of Hematology, most people don’t realize whether they have anemia not until they perform a routine blood test. Some signs of iron deficiency are:

1. Unexpected Tiredness

Extreme fatigue is a popular sign of iron deficiency anemia. People who don’t have adequate iron may also experience the same symptom. The fatigue happens because your body doesn’t have the iron that it needs to produce a protein called hemoglobin. This hemoglobin carries oxygen in several parts of your body.

When the tissues and muscles don’t get sufficient oxygen, they can’t produce adequate energy. Your heart works faster and harder to move more oxygen-rich blood around your body. Thus, you may feel tired and lethargic. But tiredness is an integral part of today’s lifestyle, thus it’s difficult to diagnose an iron deficiency depending on only this symptom. You may also feel weakness, irritability, or difficulty concentrating along with tiredness if you have iron-deficiency anemia.

2. Pale Skin Than Usual

Pale skin, especially the pale color of the lower eyelids, is another common symptom of iron deficiency. Your blood gets red due to the hemoglobin in red blood cells. So, the signs of low iron make the blood less red.

Several medical studies have also claimed that paleness due to iron deficiency may appear in other parts of the body also including the face, gums, inside of lips, nails, etc.

Paleness is the first thing that doctors used to check to confirm the signs of iron deficiency. After a blood test, this condition is confirmed by the experts. Paleness is associated more in moderate or severe cases of anemia. If you see a pale pink or yellow color inside your eyelid while pulling it down, then you are suffering from iron deficiency.

3. Shortness of Breath

Hemoglobin carries oxygen in other parts of your body. The oxygen levels will also be low due to iron deficiency. Your tissues and muscles don’t get sufficient oxygen to perform their natural activities like walking. This will enhance your breathing rate as the body tries to get more oxygen. That’s why people with iron deficiency often experience shortness of breath. You find difficulties while performing your normal activities like walking, climbing stairs, or working out.

4. Headaches

Iron deficiency often leads to headaches, particularly in women who are in their menstruation cycle. But the link is not clear; hence more studies are required to establish the claim. Though you may suffer from headaches due to various reasons, frequent headaches may be a symptom of iron deficiency.

5. Heart Palpitation

Irregular heartbeats or heart palpitations are other common symptoms of iron deficiency anemia. If you have iron deficiency, then hemoglobin in RBC can’t transport oxygen to various parts of your body. In this scenario, your heart needs to work extra hard to carry oxygen. This may cause irregular heartbeats or you may feel your heart is beating faster.

6. Swelling or Soreness of The Mouth Or Tongue

If you are suffering from iron-deficiency anemia, you may experience a swollen, inflamed, pale, or strangely tongue. Iron deficiency may also cause other symptoms around your mouth, including dry mouth, a burning sensation inside your mouth, soreness, mouth ulcers, and red cracks at the corners of your mouth.

7. Restless Legs

Some people may experience restless leg syndrome due to iron deficiency anemia. This is a condition where you may feel an urge to move your legs even when they are at rest. You may also feel an itching sensation in your feet and legs, particularly at night. So, you may find it difficult to sleep with this condition.

Some other less known symptoms of iron deficiency anemia are:

  • Feelings of Depression: people may also feel depressed due to iron deficiency. Pregnant women are more prone to developing this condition.
  • Cold Hands and Feet: Iron deficiency means your hands and feet will get less oxygen. Some people may experience cold hands and feet due to this.
  • More Frequent Infections: Iron plays a pivotal role in making your immune system healthy. Lack of iron may enhance your risks of getting infections.


Common Causes of Iron Deficiency

Some common causes of iron deficiency are:

  • Insufficient iron intake due to a diet that won’t meet your daily nutritional needs
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or celiac disease
  • An increased requirement of iron during pregnancy
  • Blood loss due to heavy menstrual bleeding or internal bleeding
  • Bleeding in your stomach or intestines may also cause anemia in adults
  • Some NSAID medications like ibuprofen or aspirin Stomach ulcers
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Bowel or stomach cancer


How to Improve Iron Deficiency

If you have iron deficiency symptoms, you can incorporate some iron-rich food items into your diet. These foods could be:

  • Red meat, such as beef, pork, and poultry
  • Dark leafy greens, such as spinach and kale
  • Dried fruit, like raisins and apricots
  • Peas, beans, and other legumes
  • Seafood
  • Iron-fortified foods, such as breakfast cereals
  • Seeds and nuts
  • Fruits like strawberries, grapefruit, kiwi fruit, oranges, etc.


You can take iron supplements to improve your iron deficiency symptoms. But, talk to your doctor first before consuming them as they have some side effects.

The Bottom Line

Though iron deficiency anemia is the most common deficiency disorder in today’s world, still don’t self-treat. Rather talk to a doctor and choose the proper line of treatment to overcome it. Most iron deficiencies can be treated with iron-rich foods and supplements. 

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