Iron-Deficiency Anemia: Symptoms, Treatments and Causes
Anemia is a common illness, but it’s also very debilitating. Many suffer in silence without realizing their seemingly common symptoms are due to anemia. If you’re experiencing any of the following, it might be time to speak to a doctor.
Iron is a mineral that plays a vital role in health and well-being. Without it, many bodily functions would malfunction. Iron is an important component of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs and transports it throughout the body.
If your body doesn't have enough iron, it cannot produce enough healthy oxygen-carrying red blood cells. Iron deficiency can cause anemia, which means you have too little hemoglobin.
Insufficient iron levels can wreak havoc all over the body. Here are seven surprising signs you may have iron deficiency.
1. Extreme fatigue and exhaustion
Fatigue is one of the most common signs of iron deficiency because it means your body is having trouble carrying the oxygen to your cells so it’s affecting your energy levels. People lacking enough iron in their blood often feel sluggish, weak, and unable to focus. Though fatigue can be the sign of numerous conditions, if it does not go away with adequate rest, consider having your iron levels checked.
2. Frequent infections
Iron plays a key role in a healthy immune system, so lower levels of the mineral can make someone more susceptible to infections. Red blood cells help to transport oxygen to the spleen, which is one place where infections can be fought off. Red blood cells also carry oxygen to the lymph nodes, which house infection-fighting white blood cells.
When someone has an iron deficiency, the white blood cells aren’t being produced as well, and they’re not as strong because they’re not getting enough oxygen, making that person more susceptible to infections.
3. Pale skin
Hemoglobin gives skin its rosy color, so low levels cause the skin to become lighter. When red blood cells become low in iron, they become smaller and paler in the center so skin also becomes paler. This may be easier to detect in people with lighter complexions, but no matter what your skin tone, if the area inside your bottom eyelid is lighter than normal, this may be a sign of iron deficiency.
4. Swollen tongue
Changes to your tongue, including soreness or swelling, can be a sign of iron deficiency. Cracks on the side of the mouth are also common among people with iron deficiency.
5. Restless Legs Syndrome
Some people who have iron deficiency develop restless legs syndrome, a disorder that causes you to have a strong urge to move your legs. The urge often comes with an unpleasant, crawling sensation in the legs that can make it hard to sleep.
People with iron deficiency may develop cravings for non-food substances, such as clay, dirt, or chalk, a condition known as pica. However, submitting to your cravings and eating these substances could be harmful, as it may lead to the ingestion of harmful toxins and substances. Eating clay, chalk, and dirt can actually interfere with absorption of iron.
7. Hair loss
Iron deficiency, especially when it develops into anemia, can cause hair loss. When hair follicles don’t get enough oxygen, they go into a resting stage, and hair falls out and doesn’t grow back until anemia is improved. It is normal to lose about 100 strands of hair per day. However, if you notice your hair loss is excessive and it is not growing back, this may be a sign of iron deficiency.
What are common signs of iron-deficiency anemia?
Some common signs you may have this condition include:
- Your nails are brittle or spoon. This is a condition called koilonychia. Your nails look concave, like spoons, instead of growing flat
- You have cracks at the corners of your mouth
- You have pale skin, or your skin is paler than usual
- Your tongue hurts or feels sore
- Your hands feel cold to others
If you’re experiencing these symptoms and think you may be iron deficient, speak to your doctor or Visit ER of Texas's closest emergency rooms. We can help you get to the root cause of your iron deficiency, find ways to include more iron-rich foods in your diet, and determine whether you need to take supplemental iron.
Our ER is open 24/7 to help treat and diagnose minor and major emergencies. Our board-certified physicians are available 24 hours.