Iron Deficiency: Signs and Symptoms

Iron deficiency

Our body needs a number of essential minerals to keep functioning effectively. Iron is one such mineral that is very important as it makes a protein in the red blood cells called hemoglobin that carries oxygen through the cells. When there is a lack of hemoglobin in the blood, the muscles and tissues don’t get adequate oxygen and they are not able to function properly. This condition is known as anemia.

Anemia due to iron-deficiency is a common health concern worldwide and is caused by a number of factors like

  • Poor diet or low-nutritious diet
  • Blood loss due to internal bleeding
  • Heavy flow during periods
  • Inflammatory bowel disorder
  • Increased iron requirement during pregnancy

A deficiency of iron in blood might lead to a number of unpleasant health symptoms. Here are some common signs and symptoms:

Feeling too tired 

Most of us feel tired too often and we wish we could steal a nap in between office hours. This might happen due to a deficiency of iron in the blood that cuts down the supply of oxygen to the nerves and muscles making them too tired. This also explains the unusual feeling of tiredness when having periods.
But often iron deficiency is difficult to diagnose as tiredness is considered an ongoing part of the modern busy life.

Pale skin 

An easy way to check if you are iron-deficient is to pull the lower eyelid and check the inside of it. If it lacks the reddish tint and has a pale whitish color, you are anemic. Also if your cheeks and face appear unusually white, you might want to check your hemoglobin levels. The hemoglobin in the red blood cells gives the healthy and rosy glow on your skin.

Shortness of breath 

This is a very common symptom if you are iron deficient. As we know that hemoglobin is the main component in the red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body, low hemoglobin means low levels of oxygen in the blood. This will tire out the muscles as they won’t get enough oxygen to carry on the normal activities, even walking or a simple household chore. As the body tries to pull more oxygen, the breathing rate will automatically increase and it will lead to shortness of breath.
If you are finding it difficult to climb the stairs or walk a kilometer, you might have iron deficiency. Get a blood test done.


A headache is another symptom when there is an inadequate iron content in the body. Although this is not a very common symptom, it is often coupled with other symptoms like dizziness and lightheadedness. With low iron levels in the blood, enough oxygen cannot reach the brain too that cause the nerves in the brain to swell causing pressure and headaches. Recurrent headaches can mean other health issues too, so visit a doctor to get confirmed.

Dry skin and brittle hair 

If no amount of topical treatment can manage your dry skin and damaged and brittle hair, chances are that you might be having an iron deficiency. When your blood has low levels of iron, your body adapts the agenda to direct the oxygen to more important body organs and tissues. If your iron deficiency problem is severe, it can lead to hair fall.

If you experience these symptoms and feel that you are iron deficient, talk to your doctor at the earliest to start an immediate treatment. You might also start taking iron supplements. ( Read more about the importance of iron supplement for good health).

Also Read: Importance of Iron and Calcium supplements for Women

How to boost iron levels naturally in addition to supplements?

If you have low blood iron levels in your body or anemia, the doctor will recommend you to take iron supplements. In addition to these supplements, you can also try natural diet remedies to improve your levels of iron.

  • Vitamin C-rich foods can increase the absorption of iron in the intestines. Oranges, apricots, papaya, strawberries, and blackberries are great sources of vitamin C.  
  • Animal protein in the form of red meat, poultry and fish are rich sources of Vitamin C.
  • Have lots of green leafy veggies along with nuts like almonds and cashews. 

Monitor your levels of iron every 4 months through a blood test. If you find it not improving have a word with your doctor. It might be due to some other underlying health condition. 


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