Jan - Feb 2023

Signs You May Have Iron Deficiency

By Sandra M. Bond, RN BSN


Many of us are so busy leading our hectic lives that we may not notice that we are feeling increasingly tired. Often, we simply dismiss it as just a part of life. However, an iron deficiency can also make you feel weak and tired. That’s why it’s important to find out if you’re deficient in this essential dietary mineral. But before you freak out, don’t. Just keep in mind that you might need to get your iron levels checked soon because your condition could worsen over time.


Iron deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia. It occurs when your body does not have enough iron. Iron is required in the production of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein in your bloodstream that helps to transport oxygen to where it is needed throughout your body.


You may ask, what are some signs or symptoms that might possibly indicate that one has iron deficiency? In cases of mild iron deficiency there may in fact be no signs at all. As iron deficiency worsens, some common signs noted are fatigue and tiredness, weakness, pale skin, shortness of breath, hair loss, a tingling sensation in the legs, frequent headaches, brittle nails, increased sensitivity to cold, and in some cases the desire to eat items that aren’t food, such as dirt, or ice.


Some common causes of iron deficiency include not taking in adequate amounts of iron in one’s diet, loss of iron through chronic heavy menstruation (in women of childbearing age), chronic blood loss from other medical conditions, and an inability to absorb iron.


When iron deficiency is caused by an inadequate intake of iron in your diet, you can help treat it or prevent it by increasing your intake of iron rich foods. These foods such as red meat, dark green, leafy vegetables, dried fruits, nuts, and iron-fortified cereals can increase your iron levels. Some individuals will be advised to take iron tablets in addition to supplementing their dietary intake of iron rich foods. If you do take iron tablets, it is also recommended to take Vitamin C which helps your body absorb iron.


Keep in mind if your iron deficiency anemia is caused by loss of blood rather than lack of iron in your diet, iron supplements alone won’t be sufficient to correct the deficiency. In these situations the cause and site of bleeding must be identified by your doctor and appropriate treatment carried out.


If you think you may have signs of iron deficiency, it is best to discuss this with your medical provider. This is particularly important if you have undergone any surgery in recent months, especially weight loss surgery.