6 Warning Signs & Symptoms of Iron Deficiency

Did you know that when your iron levels are low, regardless of your BMI, your body can’t make enough red blood cells that help the oxygen transport from the lungs into other parts of the body?

Lack of oxygen can make you feel tired, confused, weaken your breathing, etc. [1]

As the body doesn’t produce iron on its own, we need to get it from food and supplements.

Iron deficiency can lead to several symptoms, including tiredness, restless leg syndrome, paleness, cold hands and feet, etc. [2]

Our guide will help you learn some crucial stuff concerning iron:

  • Why iron matters for a good health
  • What are the symptoms of iron deficiency
  • How to deal with low levels of iron

The symptoms may not be that noticeable in mild iron deficiency; however, in more severe cases, they are.

Untreated iron deficiency can lead to iron deficiency anemia, a type of anemia caused by lack of iron (there are several reasons for anemia).

Taking into account that iron deficiency is one of the most common mineral deficiencies in the world and the fact our bodies can’t naturally make it, we need to be able to recognize the early symptoms and consult our doctor for treatment.

How to recognize iron deficiency- 6 most common symptoms

1. Pale skin

Having a pile skin and pale insides of the lower eyelids is one of the most common symptoms of iron deficiency, including moderate and severe anemia.

This is because the hemoglobin in our red blood cells is what gives blood the red color, so lower levels of it can reduce the redness of the blood.[3]

  • Paleness is a common symptom of iron deficiency, no matter your BMI
  • Paleness can be visible throughout the body or in one part only
  • The low hemoglobin levels lead to pale skin

What’s more, the paleness from low iron can be visible in other parts of the body or limited in one part, like the face, gums, inside of the lips, nails or lower eyelids.

Even though your doctor will check you out for this symptom, they need to confirm it through a blood test to be sure.

2. Unexplainable fatigue

Feeling too fatigued all the time, even after resting or after a good night sleep, is also one of the major symptoms of iron deficiency.

This symptom happens in more than 50 percent of people whose levels of iron are lower than the recommended.

Tiredness happens because our body needs iron to make hemoglobin.

When there’s not enough hemoglobin, the amount of oxygen that goes into the muscles and tissues diminishes and reduces their energy, causing us to feel weaker. [4]

  • Ongoing tiredness is common in iron deficient people
  • It’s caused by the low levels of oxygen in the muscles and tissues
  • The heart has to work even more

Plus, our heart will then need to work additionally to move the current oxygen blood through the body, causing you to feel even more tired.

If your fatigue is a result of iron deficiency, you may also experience it along with other symptoms like feeling cranky, unable to focus, and being low in productivity at work.

3. Skin & hair problems

Having dry and damaged hair and skin may be a consequence of iron deficiency.

Namely, when your body is low in iron, it begins to save up on its limited oxygen to use for more important bodily functions.

The lack of oxygen leads to weaker hair and skin in people with different BMIs. [5]

  • Dry & damaged hair are symptoms of iron deficiency
  • Iron deficiency can cause skin problems
  • Hair loss is another symptom of severe lack of iron

Hair loss is also a common sign of serious iron deficiencies and anemia.

Although it’s normal to lose a certain amount of hair every day, losing clumps of it and in excessive amounts may be caused by an underlying health issue.

According to research, this symptom is usually present in more severe cases of iron deficiency.

If you happen to notice these changes, alongside some other iron deficiency symptoms, consult your physician to determine the underlying cause.

Avoid taking supplements unless advised by your doctor!

4. Sore and swollen tongue and mouth

Some people with iron deficiency may experience symptoms like sore, inflamed, and swollen tongue and a tongue that’s oddly smooth. [6]

The tongue may also be pale due to the insufficient iron whereas the lower levels of myglobin are what make your tongue too smooth, sore, and swollen.

Myoglobin is a protein in our red blood cells which is known to support our muscles, like those in our tongue.

  • Smooth tongue is a symptom of iron deficiency
  • The tongue can also be red, inflamed, and painful
  • This symptom is known as anemia tongue

If you’re not getting enough iron, you may also deal with dry mouth and sore and red cracks at the mouth’s corners, as well as mouth ulcers.

This tongue symptom linked with iron deficiency is also known as anemia tongue. You’ll notice the tongue’s color changing into several shades of red and its surface will be oddly smooth.

In severe cases of iron deficiency, you may also experience difficulty chewing, speaking, and swallowing.

5. Restless leg syndrome

Restless leg syndrome refers to the strong need to keep on moving the legs while resting as well as experiencing an odd itchiness in the legs and feet.

The itching usually relieves the unpleasant feeling in the legs which has been mostly described as a sensation of ache, tingling, and crawling.

The problem worsens for most people at night and consequently, diminishes the quality of sleep, in people with any BMI.

  • Restless leg syndrome is one of the common symptoms of low iron
  • It can be caused by other medical conditions
  • 25 percent of people with it also have anemia caused by low iron

Even though the exact reasons behind this condition remain unknown and although there are various medical conditions associated with it, up to 25 percent of people who have this health condition are believed to have anemia caused by iron deficiency too. [7]

Moreover, the lower the levels of this important mineral, the worse the symptoms are.

6. Heart palpitations

Heart palpitations or noticeable heartbeats are one of the main symptoms of iron deficiency.

When a person lacks iron, the low levels of hemoglobin will start to push the heart to work harder in order to deliver oxygen to the other parts of the body. [8]

  • Heart palpitations may indicate low iron levels
  • The heart needs to work more to deliver oxygen
  • Usually develops in severe cases

Consequently, you begin to experience irregular heart beating or a feeling that your heart is beating very fast or faster than it usually does, even when you’re just sitting, not being particularly physically active.

If not treated and in more severe cases of iron deficiency, this symptom may even lead to problems like enlarged heart, heart murmur and even heart failure.

However, this symptom is usually less common and one would have to experience iron deficiency for a longer period of time to have heart palpitations.

Final Thoughts

 Iron deficiency is one of the most common types of anemia and even though some people who have it can experience several of these symptoms, others may not experience any or they’ll have only some.

We’ve discussed some of the most frequent ones, including restless leg syndrome, heart palpitations, swollen tongue, hair and skin problems, pale skin, and excessive fatigue and help you learn why they happen and how to alleviate them!

Reference sites:

  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/iron-deficiency-anemia
  2. https://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=6692
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/hypoxemia/basics/causes/sym-20050930
  4. https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/iron-deficiency-anemia#1
  5. https://www.neuterre.com/blog/post/2019/01/03/6-signs-and-symptoms-of-iron-deficiency
  6. https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/basics/threats-to-dental-health/anemia-tongue-symptoms-causes-and-treatments-0715
You might also like