Iron deficiency is a common and often overlooked global nutritional deficiency. Women are among those at greatest risk. The stats are even higher for physically active women. More than 500 million people are affected. In most adults with iron deficiency anemia the cause is blood loss. In fact in a lot of the clinical cases its onset is a clinical presentation of bleeding unless proven otherwise.


Iron is essential in hemoglobin production. The body can store about one-fourth to a third of its iron. Hemoglobin is the protein compound required to transport oxygen around the body. A Lack of the hemoglobin results in a state of insufficient oxygen in the body which means problems in the whole body. Conditions such as ulcers, gastritis, gastrointestinal tumors, and inflammatory bowel disease among others are conditions that cause iron loss and eventual anaemia.


Other causes include iron mal-absorption as is seen in conditions such as celiac disease or after gastronomy. It is safe to say early detection of the deficiency is crucial. Here are some of the sign to look out for in iron deficiency diagnosis.

1. Fatigue

You are often exhausted. While this is a common thing in our lives the type of fatigue associated with iron deficiency does not seem to go away even after drinking water or resting. This is often as a result of insufficient oxygen supply to the tissues.

2. Difficulty focusing

The neurotransmitter synthesis may well likely be altered in people who have iron deficiency leading to a functionality that is less than average.

3. Breathlessness

This can happen from doing normal everyday tasks such as walking to the car or even up a staircase at home. It often occurs when the body is oxygen starved and is trying to compensate with more oxygen intake.

4. Pale or dull skin

Feeling blue lately? If your skin is looking a little dull or pale it is as a result of lowered blood supply to the body’s peripheries. This happens because the body is using up all the oxygen on your major organs.

5. Muscle soreness

Two weeks ago you could go the gym and be quite ok afterwards but now your body seems to be taking a little longer than normal to bounce back leaving you sore and achy? Iron deficiency could be the culprit. It can show up as a sore tongue or angular cheilosis (an ulceration of the corner of the mouth)

6. Brittle nails

Thin frail fingernails and toenails can also tell of iron deficiency. Often they also take a concave or spoon-shaped depression that is easy to spot.

7. Frequent infections

Iron deficiency affects the blood function and inevitably lowers the body productivity. This means that the body’s immunity is lowered resulting in frequent infections mostly respiratory infections.

8. Pink or red urine

People with iron deficiency often have a tendency to have a pink pigmentation in their urine because of the extra absorption of certain nutrients in their intestines.

9. Heavy menstruation

On average a normal woman should lose about two to three tablespoons of blood a month. If there is heavy flow every month then you are likely to have iron deficiency.

10. Palpitations

This is when you feel your heart pounding unusually fast or hard after performing a normal task. This is because it is trying to compensate for the lack of oxygen in your body by pumping more blood so that more oxygen gets to the body.

11. Restless leg syndrome

According to a study carried out by John Hopkins Medicine, about 15% of the people who fidget a lot or have restless leg syndrome tend to have iron deficiency.

12. Persistent dull headaches

Your body will prioritize getting blood to your brain in a case of iron deficiency. However due to the lack of sufficient oxygen you will incur headaches

13. Craving for dirt, ice and clay

A lot of people tend to seek medical attention when they crave ice or dirt. These cravings are the body’s way of trying to seek out the nutritional content it requires and is often used by medical personnel to diagnose iron deficiency.

14. Anxiety

A lack of sufficient oxygen in the body will trick you into feeling anxious by revving the body’s sympathetic nervous system

15. Hair loss

Your body will start saving oxygen for vital organ so your skin and scalp will go neglected especially if anemia is looming therefore you may lose a little hair.


If a combination of these symptoms is noticed visit your doctor and have a confirmatory test done. Sometimes there is bone marrow aspiration done to detect iron, which is at a low level or even absent however, few people undergo this procedure. The most used and reliable lab findings in evaluating iron deficiency anaemia are the ferritin and hemoglobin values.


To prevent this type of anaemia or to manage a mild form at home, it is best to eat foods high in iron like organ meats (beef or calf’s liver, chicken liver), beans (black, pinto and garbanzo) leafy green vegetables, raisins and molasses. Iron supplements can also be taken in form of ferrous sulphate. It is important to remember that the iron supplements should be taken on an empty stomach to maximize their absorption. Also there should be an increased intake in foods rich in vitamin C as they assist in absorption of iron into the body.


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