Foods to Avoid with High Cholesterol

5 Signs of Iron Deficiency

Iron Deficiency Anaemia

Iron deficiency anaemia is very prevalent, and many may be unaware they’re affected by it. Anaemia is caused due to deficiency of iron to produce haemoglobin, the crucial protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen. Haemoglobin’s primary role is to ferry oxygen from the lungs to every corner of the body and, in return, carry away carbon dioxide from the tissues back to the lungs. 

However, when there’s an iron deficiency, the production of haemoglobin dwindles, reducing oxygen-carrying red blood cells. The repercussions can be significant, manifesting in various anaemia symptoms that impact physical and mental health. Recognizing the signs of low haemoglobin is crucial to ensure one’s overall health.

What are the Causes of Anaemia?

Iron deficiency anaemia results from various factors. Chronic blood loss from ulcers or heavy menstrual cycles can deplete iron. Some face absorption challenges, even with adequate iron intake. Increased iron needs during pregnancy or breastfeeding can lead to deficiencies. If not well-planned, diet choices, especially vegetarian or vegan diets, can result in iron insufficiency. Recognising these causes of anaemia is essential for prevention and treatment.

What are the Signs of Iron Deficiency?

1. Fatigue and Weakness

One of the primary anaemia symptoms is fatigue. This isn’t just everyday tiredness. It’s a lingering sense of exhaustion that doesn’t get better with rest.

When the body experiences an iron deficiency, it struggles to produce enough haemoglobin. Haemoglobin is essential because it carries oxygen throughout the body from the lungs. With low haemoglobin levels, the tissues and muscles lack the necessary oxygen to function, leading to persistent tiredness and weakness.  

Constant fatigue is one of the tell-tale iron deficiency symptoms and can affect daily activities and the overall quality of life.

2. Physical Signs

Physical manifestations of iron deficiency can be subtle, yet they offer vital clues about one’s health. These symptoms are often overlooked or mistaken for other conditions. However, they can provide early indications of iron deficiency anaemia. Recognising them early on can pave the way for timely intervention. 

  1. Pale or yellow skin: Skin discolouration directly results from diminished haemoglobin levels. As haemoglobin decreases, the skin loses its natural hue, and this can be the first noticeable sign of Fe deficiency.  
  2. Cold hands and feet: A reduction in oxygen circulation due to anaemia can lead to decreased blood flow to the hands and feet, resulting in sensations of coldness. 
  3. Inflammation or soreness of the tongue: A deficiency can lead to a sore or inflamed tongue, sometimes referred to as glossitis.  
  4. Brittle Nails: Nails can become brittle; in severe cases of iron deficiency, they might even take on a spoon-shaped appearance.  

3. Respiratory Symptoms

Respiratory symptoms associated with iron deficiency can be particularly distressing as they directly impact one’s ability to perform everyday activities. Respiratory distress is one of the significant low haemoglobin symptoms to look out for, as it may lead to severe health complications.  

  1. Shortness of breath: When there’s a drop in haemoglobin levels, the body’s capacity to transport oxygen diminishes. As a result, even minor activities like walking or climbing stairs can lead to breathlessness. 
  2. Chest pain and rapid heartbeat: The heart may beat faster to compensate for reduced oxygen. This increased effort can lead to sensations of chest pain and an unusually rapid heartbeat.  
  3. Dizziness or light-headedness: Reduced oxygen supply also impacts the brain. When the brain doesn’t receive the oxygen it requires, it can lead to feelings of dizziness or light-headedness, which can be one of the potentially dangerous iron insufficiency symptoms.

4. Cognitive and Sensory Symptoms

 Iron is pivotal in various physiological processes, including cognitive and sensory functions. When the body lacks adequate iron, it can manifest in cognitive and sensory low hb symptoms.

  1. Difficulty concentrating: An iron deficiency can lead to reduced oxygen supply to the brain, affecting neurotransmitter synthesis and function. This can make concentrating difficult.  
  2. Hearing ringing, buzzing, or hissing noises: Though less common, these auditory disturbances can be distressing. Fe deficiency can lead to abnormalities in neural conduction velocities in auditory pathways, potentially causing these auditory symptoms.  
  3. Neurocognitive Deficits: Iron deficiency can lead to long-term cognitive deficits, especially during critical developmental periods like neonatal stages.  
  4. Delayed Motor Development: In children, iron insufficiency is associated with deficits in motor development.  

5. Other Signs of Iron Deficiency

Iron deficiency can manifest in numerous ways, some of which might seem unrelated to the condition at first glance. Some of these less common symptoms include:  

  1. Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS): RLS is a neurological condition that causes unpleasant sensations and an overwhelming urge to move the legs, especially when asleep or at rest.  
  2. Pica: This unusual behaviour involves a craving to consume non-food items, such as dirt, clay, or paper. 
  3. Hair loss: Our hair follicles require a consistent supply of nutrients, including iron, to maintain healthy growth. Iron deficiency can cause hair follicles to receive less oxygen and nutrients, resulting in hair loss. 

    What to Do If You Suspect Iron Deficiency?

    Taking proactive steps is imperative if a person is experiencing symptoms that align with iron deficiency. Firstly, one should always consult a healthcare professional. Self-diagnosis can be misleading, especially since many symptoms overlap with other types of anaemia.

    Dietary changes can be beneficial. Including iron-rich foods such as spinach, red meat, and fortified cereals can help address the reasons for iron deficiency.

    Regular testing is crucial, especially for high-risk individuals, like pregnant women or those with specific medical conditions. Early detection is vital for effective management of iron deficiency anaemia.

    Prioritise your health and consult your doctor to schedule a Ferritin Test with Dr Lal PathLabs today!


    1. What are the main causes of low iron?

    Iron deficiency occurs when the iron reserves in your body are depleted. It can be caused by a diet lacking iron, continuous blood loss, pregnancy, or intense physical activity. 

    2. Is iron and hemoglobin the same thing?

    Hemoglobin, the iron-containing protein that colors blood red, transports oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissues. Iron, vital for hemoglobin, comes from our diet.

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