Signs of Iron Deficiency

Iron deficiency is described as a condition which is marked by an inadequate amount of iron to meet the necessary requirements of the body for the mineral. It results from several causes, including an insufficient intake through diet, poor absorption and loss of blood. According to the National Institute of Health, United States, the individuals who suffer most from the condition or are at a higher risk of falling prey to it include pregnant women, frequent blood donors, infants, individuals suffering from cancer or individuals who have faced chronic heart failure. The deficiency affects people all around the globe. It is, therefore, necessary to identify its signs in order to detect and treat the deficiency accordingly.

The following discussion explains what the signs of iron deficiency are.

Signs Of Iron Deficiency

Importance of Iron

In order to understand the signs and symptoms of the deficiency, it is important to discover what the significance of the mineral is for the body. It is discussed briefly below.

  • Iron is an integral part of hemoglobin which is responsible for transporting oxygen throughout the body. Therefore, through this function, the mineral becomes vital for supplying different parts of the body, including the brain, with oxygen in order to support normal functioning.
  • Iron is also an important component of myoglobin which is responsible for supplying oxygen to muscles, in particular, in order to support their function and maintain muscle health.
  • The mineral is also a significant component of several enzymes which catalyze different chemical reactions taking place in the body.

Iron Deficiency – General Signs and Symptoms

The shortage of iron can lead to certain serious medical conditions. On the other hand, any individual suffering from mild to severe form of the deficiency may experience the following general symptoms.

  • Individuals feel exhausted owing to the fact that the efficiency of oxygen transport to different parts of the body is affected. Therefore, the body’s performance is negatively impacted, leading to weakness and exhaustion.
  • Since there is inadequate iron for the formation of hemoglobin, the skin looks pale. Hemoglobin gives the skin a pinkish or red shade while a lack of the protein leads to a pale and washed out complexion.
  • Shortness of breath occurs due to the obvious reason of low levels of oxygen.
  • The heart pounds faster even after mild physical activities. This is because the heart becomes overworked in order to pump blood faster to deal with low oxygen levels.
  • Frequent headache is experienced since oxygen supply to the brain drops. In response, the blood arteries found in the region swell and lead to headache.
  • Hair loss increases as the hair roots at the follicles become weak due to inadequate oxygen.
  • Sufferers fall prey to general anxiety without any valid reasons for being anxious.


Anemia is the major condition which results from an iron deficiency. Since there is inadequate amount of the mineral for the synthesis of hemoglobin, the number of red blood cells declines and the process of oxygen transport is, therefore, affected.

Following are the symptoms of anemia:

  • A pale complexion
  • Koilonychia disease occurs which is marked by concave shaped nails
  • Soreness of the mouth
  • Cracked mouth corners
  • Loss of energy and general fatigue experienced frequently
  • Shortage of breath
  • Irritability and mode swings
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty in focusing and concentrating on work or studies
  • Irregular heart beat
  • Frequent headaches
  • Cognitive Issues
  • Chest Pain
  • General weakness
  • Cold hands and feet


This medical condition involves an inflamed tongue. Glossitis is caused by various reasons. A deficiency of iron also triggers it. The condition leads to the following symptoms:

  • Swelling of the tongue
  • The color of the tongue becomes uneven with varying shades of red
  • Speech is affected due to the swelling
  • Papillae disappear and the tongue appears smooth
  • Difficulty in tasting, eating and swallowing food
  • Pain and a feeling of tenderness on the tongue

Restless Leg Syndrome

One of the signs of iron deficiency is the restless leg syndrome. It is related to a disorder of the nervous system owing to which the victims experience an urge to move the legs and remain restless. This urge is prompted by uncomfortable itchy sensations in the legs. Individuals may experience “pins and needles” feelings which can make it uncomfortable to sit without fidgeting. The syndrome creates awkwardness for the victims at social gatherings or formal meetings. In addition, the restlessness also affects sleep, giving rise to a sleeping disorder.

Pica Disorder

Pica is an eating disorder which is marked by a craving for inedible items with no nutritive value. The most common of such items include clay, ice, dirt, paint, glass, wood and raw potatoes. It affects several individuals suffering from iron deficiency, particularly infants and toddlers. The latter may also exhibit a craving for stuff which is repulsive and sickening for grownups, such as vomit. Such strange cravings are a sign of the deficiency of iron.

Increased Vulnerability to Diseases

A deficiency of iron affects the body’s immune system. As a result, the defense system of an individual becomes weak. It fails to fight against most infections efficiently. Therefore, the body becomes more vulnerable to infectious diseases. Individuals who are deficient in iron, therefore, easily fall prey to diseases like common cold, bacterial throat infections and other contagious viral and bacterial diseases.

All the signs of iron deficiency should be taken into account so that the condition can be treated promptly before it progresses into serious issues. Doctors may prescribe supplements in some cases, such as for the treatment of severe anemia or during pregnancy. On the other hand, mild deficiency can be overcome through food sources. In addition, it is also important to deal with absorption issues. Taking vitamin C, for instance, can improve the absorption of iron and help alleviate the deficiency of this immensely important mineral.

About the Author

Posted by: M. Isaac / Senior writer

A graduate in biological sciences and a PhD scholar (NCBA&E University, Lahore), M. Isaac combines his vast experience with a keen and critical eye to create practical and inherently engaging content on the human body. His background as a researcher and instructor at a secondary school enables him to best understand the needs of the beginner level learners and the amateur readers and educate them about how their body works, and how they can adopt a healthier lifestyle.

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