17 Signs You Have Iron Deficiency from 17 Signs You Have Iron Deficiency

17 Signs You Have Iron Deficiency

Full Story

Shutterstock

17 Signs You Have Iron Deficiency

Iron is a very important mineral found in every cell of the body, which is why lacking it can cause both small and lasting health problems. The most important thing about iron deficiency is to find why there is a lack of it in the first place, Priyanka Pathak, MD, oncologist at Geisinger Health System, says. “Replacing it is just like putting a Band-Aid on; you have to find the real issue.”

iStock

Hair loss

Losing more than 100 hairs every time you brush your hair may be a sign you lack iron. “Iron is required for the formation of proteins,” Dr. Pathak says. Hair is a protein thread that grows from follicles found in the skin. The hair follicles in a person with anemia don’t get enough oxygen. The body has prioritized the oxygen it does have for vital functions because it’s in survival mode, Dr. Pathak adds.  As a result, the hair falls out.

Shutterstock

General weakness and lightheadedness

Experiencing muscle weakness as well as unexplained muscle pain and aches is a common sign of iron deficiency. The muscles don’t have energy to function properly. A decline in both strength and stamina is a natural result. Lightheadedness starts when blood counts start going low as a result of anemia, since iron is required to make blood, Dr. Pathak says.

iStock

Brittle nails

The nail has raised ridges and is thin and curved inward. This disorder is associated with iron deficiency anemia, according to NIH. The fingernails consist of hardened layers of protein, which protects the soft tissue. When the body is not making enough hemoglobin, the lack of oxygen weakens the nail, causing them to break.

Shutterstock

Unexplained chronic fatigue

Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of iron deficiency, Dr. Pathak says. People are used to being in a hurry all the time so many don’t pay attention when their body feels tired. Lack of iron leads lower counts of hemoglobin, which is the protein that helps red blood cells deliver oxygen throughout your body. This means less oxygen is going to your muscles. As a result, they have no energy, leaving you feeling exhausted.

iStock

Swollen tongue

Less iron means less myoglobin in the blood which keeps the muscles healthy. Since the tongue is actually a muscle, it will feel sore, smooth, swollen and will have a weird pale color, according to John Hopkins Medicine. Sore and swollen tongue can, as a result, leads to problems with chewing, swallowing and even speaking.

Shutterstock

Paleness

Poor skin tone is common when the body lacks iron. The skin, being the largest organ on the body, will inevitably suffer if there are not enough red blood cells to deliver oxygen to it. Paleness is generally the result of reduced blood flow or a decreased number of red blood cells, Dr. Pathak says. “This is the body’s self-defense mechanism: The blood is going to more important organs such as the brain and kidneys,” she adds.

iStock

Out of breath

Lack of iron causes low levels of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to body cells, Dr. Pathak says. Logically, if the oxygen level in your body is low, you’ll feel out of breath much quicker than normal. “You have less blood which now has to do extra work,” she adds. If you feel like you can’t catch your breath after going up one flight of stairs, you may need to have some iron-rich foods such as liver, meat, beans, nuts, dried fruits, and green vegetables, according to the U.K. National Health Service (NHS).

iStock

Headaches

Headache, especially with activity, can be a sign of iron deficiency. Unfortunately, a headache is also a symptom people often ignore even though it can sometimes be life-threatening. Your body’s priority when it doesn’t have enough oxygen is to get it to the brain before other organs. But even then the arteries can swell, triggering headaches, according to American Society of Hematology.

Pexels

Meatless diet

You don’t have to be a heavy meat-eater but the body does absorb iron from meat more easily than iron coming from plant-based foods, Dr. Pathak says, because it’s organic heme. “Meat also helps increase hemoglobin levels,” she adds. So if you stay away from meat, you have to find another way to increase your intake of iron-rich, plant-based foods. Many people opt out for supplements. If meat is out of the question for you, pick foods that are high in Vitamin C to enhance iron absorption.

Shutterstock

Rapid heartbeat

If you don't have enough hemoglobin-carrying red blood cells, your heart has to work harder to pump more blood and move oxygen-rich blood through your body, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. That’s why severe anemia that has been untreated can lead to heart failure, Dr. Pathak adds. Anemia is found in about one-third of all cases of congestive heart failure, studies show.

Shutterstock

Restless Legs Syndrome

RLS is condition in which people feel an irresistible urge to move the legs. About 15 percent of people who have RLS also have iron deficiency, according to John Hopkins Medicine. The single most consistent finding and the strongest environmental risk factor associated with RLS is iron insufficiency. The symptoms usually occur at night, preventing patients from getting enough sleep.

iStock

No appetite

Loss of appetite and weight loss is another general symptom of anemia, according to NHS. It usually is a result of other symptoms people are experiencing, Dr. Pathak says. Feeling weak and tired all the time is not something that will stimulate a healthy appetite. “This is just part of how a person wil iron deficiency generally feels,” she adds.

iStock

Pounding in the ears

“This has to do with the heart palpitations,” Dr. Pathak says. Your heart is working harder and you can often heart it, especially if you are laying down on your side. You can also hear it like a “whooshing” sound in your ears.

iStock

Cognitive problems

“We don’t know exactly how or why that happens,” Dr. Pathak says. Iron is required for the enzymes of every cell, she adds, and oxygen is required for the functioning nearly all cell types. “A mental fog can definitely happen,” she adds. Lack of oxygen, including to the brain, as a result of anemia will slow cognition. When you add heart palpitations to this symptom, you feel anxious and restless.

Shutterstock

Craving for non-nutritive substances

This is a unique symptom of iron deficiency, Dr. Pathak says. The condition is called Pica, and it means a craving for non-nutritive items such as ice, hair, dirt, or laundry starch. It doesn’t happen very often and there is not a clear explanation as to why the disorder develops, she adds.

Shutterstock

Higher risk of infections

“We don’t see many cases where people with iron-deficiency, but lack of iron can certainly increase you risk of infections because the cells are compromised due to the lack of oxygen,” Dr. Pathak says. The spleen is part of your lymphatic system, which fights infection, according to NIH. If the spleen is not getting enough oxygen because of iron deficiency, it can’t work as well. The lymph nodes, which produce white blood cells to fight infections, don’t get enough oxygen either, causing weaker white blood cells.

iStock

Cold hands and feet

Unexplained cold hands and feet are a common symptom if iron deficiency, according to Iron Disorders Institute. Consuming less than 18 mg for women and 8 mg for men prevents the production of myoglobin and hemoglobin. Blood cells that don’t have enough oxygen get stuck in blood vessels, slowing down circulation, which leads to cold hands and feet.

17 Signs You Have Iron Deficiency