Iron deficiency symptoms, like fatigue, difficulty concentrating, swollen joints and hair loss, can occur as a result of low iron intake in the diet.
These symptoms can also be a result of excessive bleeding (from a hemorrhage or heavy period) which leads to iron and hemoglobin losses.
Iron is mineral that is fundamental for overall health. It is essential for the formation of hemoglobin, which is a component of red blood cells that is responsible for oxygen transport in the body. It is also important for optimal immune system functioning.
Iron deficiency symptoms:
The most common symptoms of low iron include:
- Extreme fatigue. constant sleepiness or decreased mood
- Difficulty learning or paying attention
- Swollen ankles or other joints
- Hair loss or thin, breaking hair strands
- Pallid skin color or eye lids
- Loss of appetite, changes to taste or a smooth tongue
- Frequent infections, due to low immunity
If you notice these symptoms, you should consult a doctor for testing to confirm whether iron levels are low. Bloodwork can identify any deficiencies, which can prompt adequate treatment.
Confirming a diagnosis
To diagnose an iron deficiency, the doctor will first assess the presenting signs and symptoms. He or she more order bloodwork to evaluate hemoglobin levels, which may be decreased in the context of low iron.
The doctor will also order bloodwork that looks specifically at iron levels, like serum iron, ferritin (which is the protein that stores iron) and transferritin (which is the protein responsible for transporting iron to tissues in the body).
The doctor will combine all this information to determine the severity of the iron deficiency and verify whether the storage and transport proteins are functioning correctly. From here, a diagnosis can be confirmed and treatment plan can be determined.
To relieve symptoms of low iron, it is important to increase your iron intake through diet. You can eat foods like red meat, eggs, tuna, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, bananas, broccoli and spinach for example. Check out our list of iron-rich foods to incorporate into your daily diet.
In some cases, the doctor may also recommend iron supplementation, particularly in cases of low iron levels that do not improve with diet changes. The doctor may prescribe 1 or 2 iron supplements per day for several months until levels reach normal ranges.