1. Extreme Tiredness
This is one of the most notable signs of iron deficiency. This occurs due to the bodies inability to produce enough haemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells which carries oxygen around the body. Less oxygen to the tissues and muscles denies them of energy. This lack of energy can be coupled with poor concentration on tasks, reduced productivity at work and lethargy.
2. Shortness Of Breath
Due to the muscles of the body not receiving enough oxygen via the haemoglobin, your breathing rate will increase when you’re low in iron as a means of compensation to take in more oxygen. This is most noticeable when undergoing normal daily tasks that wouldn’t normally elicit shortness of breath.
3. Increased Anxiety
Lack of oxygen in the body as a result of iron deficiency can cause feelings of panic and anxiety. This is easily rectified when the iron levels have been addressed accordingly – trust me, you’ll notice a difference, especially if you’re someone who doesn’t usually suffer with anxious feelings.
4. Heart Palpitations
Due to the lack of haemoglobin in the bloodstream (which carries the oxygen), the heart in turn has to increase its workforce, in attempt to carry as much oxygen as possible. This, in turn, may lead to your heart beating irregularly, heart murmurs and in some severe cases, if iron deficiency has occurred for a prolonged period, an enlarged heart.
5. Regular Headaches
Lack of oxygen reaching the brain (via reduced haemoglobin levels), may cause the blood vessels in the brain to dilate/swell, therefore increasing pressure. Dizziness, again due to lack of oxygen may also occur.
6. Damaged Hair & Brittle Nails
Due to the generalised lack of oxygen around the body, the limited oxygen available is directed to the vital organs, therefore depriving other ‘less vital’ body tissues of its benefits. Consequently, lack of oxygen causes hair skin and nails to become dry and brittle; in more severe cases, even hair loss. Koilonychia (spoon shaped fingernails) may occur after a prolonged period of iron deficiency and is an example of severe Iron deficiency.
7. Pale Skin
The presence of haemoglobin gives blood it’s rich red colour. Prolonged lack of this protein therefore leads to the skin losing its healthy colour resulting in paleness. This can be limited to certain areas such as the face, or widespread. Certain tell-tell signs include loss of colour in the lower eyelids, nails and gums.
Prevention & Treatment:
Switch Up Your Diet
In mild instances, changes in your diet may suffice. Eating iron rich foods such as spinach, kale, peas, red meat and liver can help bring up iron levels. You may also want to look at eating foods which will increase your iron absorption (iron needs to be absorbed into the body to be effective). Foods rich in Vitamin C such as oranges and vegetables may help with this.
Seek Out Your GP As Soon As Possible
If you have any of these signs and are concerned about your health, you must seek advice from your physician where a blood test may be required to ascertain iron-deficiency anaemia. In cases, of iron deficiency, there are many things that can be done in order to bring levels of haemoglobin back to normal, but it’s good to seek help before any lingering conditions occur as a result of low iron levels.
In more severe cases, where iron deficiency cannot be rectified by diet alone, your doctor may put you on iron supplements. Although this will help with improving iron levels, you also need to be aware of the mild side effects that may accompany this: stomach ache, nausea and bowel upset, though these are usually rare and will be explained to you by your GP.