Iron is an essential mineral in the human body, which uses iron to make hemoglobin, a protein in our red blood cells which transports oxygen from the lungs to all of the body’s tissues and organs. The body also uses iron to make a protein that provides oxygen to our muscles, called myoglobin. Finally, the body also uses iron to make certain important hormones.
Symptoms of iron deficiency can range from mild to severe, and early detection and diagnosis of iron deficiency are important in order to take corrective action before any underlying condition worsens.
1. Anemia: One of the most common signs of iron deficiency is anemia—low levels of hemoglobin in red blood cells due to inadequate amounts of available iron in the body. Symptoms may include fatigue, pale skin, dizziness, headaches, and shortness of breath.
2. Fatigue: Low levels of iron in the body can cause a person to feel tired more easily than usual, even after sleeping for an adequate amount of time or engaging in physical activity that wouldn’t usually be tiring.
3. Paleness: Iron deficiency can cause paleness of the skin and lips due to a lack of proper oxygenation and circulation throughout the body. This symptom is often accompanied by faintness or dizziness as well.
4. Weak Immune System: Iron deficiency has also been linked to weakened immune system function, making it difficult for the body to fight off infections and illnesses effectively. Symptoms may include frequent colds and infections as well as slower healing times for cuts and scrapes.
5. Brittle Nails: Symptoms of iron deficiency can even manifest in the form of brittle nails that easily break or chip due to a lack of essential nutrients in the body.
6. Hair Loss: Low levels of iron in the body have been linked to hair loss, though this symptom is more typically seen in cases of severe iron deficiency anemia.
7. Spoon-Shaped Fingernails: A spoon-shaped indentation on fingernails is another possible symptom when someone is suffering from iron deficiency anemia. It may also be accompanied by pale or white spots on the nails as well as ridges running horizontally across them.
8. Heart Palpitations: Symptoms of anemia may also include heart palpitations due to a weakened cardiovascular system, which can lead to an irregular heartbeat or chest tightness.
9. Restless Leg Syndrome: In some cases, iron deficiency has been linked to restless leg syndrome—the urge to move the legs that often results in difficulty sleeping and daytime fatigue.
10. Poor Appetite: Iron deficiency can cause poor appetite due to its effect on the body’s metabolism and energy levels. Symptoms such as nausea and food cravings are common as well.
11. Headaches/Migraines: Low levels of iron can even cause headaches or migraines due to insufficient oxygen being delivered throughout the body and brain.
12. Inflammation: Symptoms of iron deficiency anemia can include inflammation in the tongue, mouth, or throat due to a lack of essential nutrients and oxygen.
13. Cold Hands/Feet: Iron deficiency has been linked to cold hands and feet as well as general sensitivity to temperature changes—even when not exposed to extreme temperatures.
14. Poor Concentration: Symptoms may also include difficulty concentrating or staying focused on tasks due to low energy levels caused by inadequate amounts of available iron in the body.
15. Unexplained Weight Loss/Gain: Symptoms such as unexplained weight loss or gain could be attributed to poor absorption of essential nutrients due to iron deficiency anemia, as well as an increase in appetite due to low energy levels.
16. Slow Growth: Symptoms of iron deficiency can also include slow growth in children and adolescents due to a lack of essential nutrients for healthy development.
17. Mouth Sores: Symptoms may include mouth sores or cracks in the corner of the mouth due to a weakened immune system caused by inadequate levels of iron in the body.
18. Menstrual Irregularities: Symptoms such as changes in the menstrual cycle—particularly heavy periods—are common symptoms of low iron levels that could lead to anemia if left untreated.
19. Craving Non-Food Items: Symptoms may even take the form of cravings for non-food items such as dirt, clay, and ice due to anemia caused by iron deficiency.
20. Changes in Taste: Symptoms can also include changes in taste, such as a metallic taste in the mouth or decreased ability to taste food.
21. Irritability: Symptoms may even present as general irritability due to low energy levels brought on by an inadequate supply of oxygen-carrying red blood cells.
22. Forgetfulness: Symptoms of iron deficiency anemia can also take the form of forgetfulness or difficulty retaining new information due to impaired cognitive function caused by a lack of essential nutrients for brain development and health.
Iron deficiency is a serious condition that should be monitored closely—especially in women and young children. Symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, and pale skin should be taken seriously and monitored for any changes to prevent anemia from developing. Symptoms can differ from person to person, so it is important to consult a doctor if you are concerned that you or someone you know may suffer from iron deficiency anemia. Early detection is key in avoiding more serious health complications down the line.
With adequate nutrition, supplementation, and medical attention when needed, iron deficiency anemia can be managed effectively with minimal disruption to day-to-day life. Taking steps now to increase iron levels in your body through healthy dietary choices is essential for maintaining good health throughout your life.
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