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Iron is one of the most vital nutrients for the proper functioning of our body. This mineral makes haemoglobin, a protein present in red blood cells, which helps carry oxygen to all the parts of our body. When our body lacks this nutrient, we experience iron deficiency. In such a case, our body is unable to perform some of its functions properly and thus may lead to certain health complications. Therefore, in order to be hale and hearty, iron levels in the body need to be in check. Read this post to know some common signs and symptoms of iron deficiency and find out if you lack this mineral in your body.
12 Signs That Show You Have Iron Deficiency
The iron levels in the body may get disrupted due to poor lifestyle, certain health conditions, excessive menstrual bleeding, increased iron requirements during pregnancy etc. However, whenever certain conditions arise our body indicates or signals us; here are some cues of iron deficiency that you should not miss:
1. Pale Skin
In the dearth of adequate iron levels in your body, you may look paler. The pale skin colour is more distinctive around the lower inner eye-lids. The reason is a lack of haemoglobin, which renders red colour to the red blood cells and which in turn, makes our skin look pinkish or rosy. The skin of your entire body may turn pale, or the paleness may be restricted to one area of the body such as lower eyelids, face, gums etc.
2. Extreme Fatigue
If you are feeling lethargic or tired for no evident reasons, there are chances that you may be suffering from low iron levels. The red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen to various parts of the body, and when these levels drop down, the body is unable to meet its oxygen requirements. The oxygen-rich blood does not get circulated in your body, and thus it makes you feel tired and exhausted.
3. Dizziness or Headaches
The lower levels of oxygen in the blood affect the brain too. Lack of oxygen in the brain may cause swelling in the blood vessels, which may lead to intense pressure. The increased pressure may make you feel dizzy and also cause headaches. Though this is not one of the prominent symptoms, however, if you are experiencing recurrent bouts of headaches or you often feel dizzy, you should get your haemoglobin checked.
If you have lower levels of haemoglobin in your body, your oxygen levels will be lower too. This means your muscles will not have enough oxygen to perform the normal day to day activities such as walking or doing routine household chores. This would increase your breathing rate or make you breathless.
5. Bad Hair and Skin Texture
If your skin looks dull and lifeless and your hair appears dry and damaged, you can blame it to the low iron levels in your body. Inadequate oxygen level in the body adversely affects the skin and hair and makes them dry and brittle. If you are experiencing severe iron deficiency, you may experience hair loss too.
6. Increased Heart Rate
If your heart is beating faster or you experience palpitations, it could be one of the notable symptoms of iron deficiency. The lesser oxygen in the blood makes the heart work more to transport oxygen to the other parts of the body, resulting in an increased or irregular heart rate. In severe cases, this condition may result in fatal complications such as heart murmur, enlarged heart, or even a heart attack.
7. Brittle Nails
Koilonychia is a condition that is associated with spoon-shaped or brittle fingernails. This condition arises when the body lacks ample iron levels. The nails bend inwards from the centre, and the edges of the nails grow outwards, giving the appearance of a spoon. The condition makes the nails brittle, or the nails may crack or break easily. This condition usually affects people with severe iron deficiencies.
8. Restless Legs Syndrome
It has been observed that people, who experience restless leg syndrome, usually suffer from anaemia or iron deficiencies. Also, the symptoms of this ailment become more severe in people with lower levels of iron. Though, the actual cause of this condition is not clearly ascertained, however, anaemia certainly has a role to play. People with this condition experience a strong urge to keep moving their legs, when in rest. And this condition may worsen at night.
9. Soreness and Swelling of the Mouth and Tongue
If you look inside your mouth, you may get the indication of iron deficiency. This is because when your haemoglobin is low; your tongue may become inflamed, swollen, and smooth or pale. You may also experience mouth ulcers, cracks on the corners of your mouth, or dryness inside your mouth.
10. Frequent Infections
Apart from carrying many other functions in the body, iron is also important in keeping your immune system in track. However, low levels of iron in your blood can make your immune system weaker, thus making you more prone to infections. The red blood cells are also important in carrying blood to the lymph nodes, where white blood cells are produced. When the infection-fighting white blood cells are not produced in ample amounts, or they are not strong enough, our body catches infections.
11. Strange Food Cravings
There are chances that if you crave for weird things such as clay, chalk or dirt, you may be anaemic or suffering from iron deficiency. However, one should refrain from succumbing to the body’s strange requirements because it may lead to toxicity and it may also fiddle with proper absorption of iron by the body.
12. Cold Feet and Hands
Do you feel that your hands or feet always remain cold, well, it could be possible because of lower iron levels. Lesser iron in the body means lesser oxygen, which means hampered blood circulation. Therefore, it could lead to colder hands and feet too.
Though many times some of the above-mentioned symptoms or signs may coincide with other health ailments too, you must act promptly and take a cue in case your body is experiencing something abnormal.
What Should You Do If You Are Iron Deficient?
If you think you are experiencing any kind of iron deficiency, here are some things that you should consider doing:
- You should consult your doctor and inform him of your symptoms to find out whether or not you are suffering from iron deficiency. Your doctor will suggest blood tests to find out the same.
- Include more iron-rich foods in your diet to increase your iron levels. Dark leafy vegetables like kale and spinach, dried fruits like apricots and raisins, seeds, nuts, red meat, poultry, pork etc. are some good options for iron-rich foods.
- You should include foods that are rich in vitamin C. This is because vitamin C is important for the absorption of iron in the body.
- You should exclude or limit the intake of foods that hamper iron absorption in the body such as caffeinated beverages or excess intake of dairy products.
- If your doctor feels the need or you are not able to meet your body’s iron requirement through dietary sources, you will be recommended iron supplements to meet your iron requirements. These supplements may also help you recover from iron-deficiency related hair loss, skin issues, and other such associated problems.
All the above-mentioned recommendations may help in dealing with symptoms of iron deficiency in women and men of all age groups.
You may have umpteen questions in your mind concerning iron deficiency in your body. Here we made have efforts to answer some frequently asked question for you.
1. How Will I Know If My Child is Iron Deficient?
Just like adults, iron is equally important for babies and young children. This mineral is very important for your child’s overall growth and development. Here are some symptoms of iron deficiency in infants or symptoms of iron deficiency in toddlers:
- Your child’s skin may look pale.
- Your child may feel tired or exhausted.
- Your child may experience poor appetite.
- Your child may have behavioural problems.
- Your child may develop a craving for unusual food items such as paint, dirt or starch.
- Your child may catch infections easily.
If your baby or child exhibits any of the above-mentioned symptoms, there are chances that your child is suffering from iron deficiency. Report your child’s symptom to your doctor and get professional help.
2. Are There Any Unusual Symptoms of Iron Deficiency in Pregnancy?
Your body’s iron requirement increases during pregnancy because your body is supporting your growing baby’s requirements too. Any kind of iron deficiency in your body during pregnancy may be harmful to you and your growing baby. Look out for following signs and get medical help:
- You may feel extremely fatigued or tired.
- Your lips, gums, face or under eyelid may turn paler than usual.
- Your heart rate may increase.
- You may experience dizziness and headaches.
- You may experience trouble in concentrating.
- You may have an unusual or weird craving like chalk, dirt or pica.
- You may experience shortness of breath.
You may not be able to register the signs of iron deficiency in the initial stages because most of the signs may appear similar to your pregnancy signs and symptoms. It is extremely important that you pay regular prenatal visits to your doctor to figure out any kind of iron discrepancy in your blood.
Iron is very important for babies, young children, adults and especially pregnant women. Now that you are well versed with the symptoms, you must act promptly if you suspect any iron deficiency. A balanced diet and healthy lifestyle go a long way to keep a healthy balance of all the essential nutrients in your body.