Iron is an essential mineral required for good health. This nutrient carries oxygen to all the cells of the body and is responsible for making hemoglobin present in the red blood cells. A lack of iron in the body leads to a low number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells. Moreover, iron deficiency can cause anemia, which can lead to other health complications.
Women have a high risk of anemia due to blood loss during menstruation. Additionally, pregnant women need to have more iron in their body, since the fetus growing inside her also requires additional iron. For women in the age group of 19 to 50 years, the daily dietary iron requirement is 18 milligrams. Pregnant women should consume 27 milligrams a day. Men need about 8 milligrams of iron every day. The best sources of dietary iron include liver, oysters, fortified cereals, dark leafy vegetables, and beans. Adding these foods to one’s diet is important to avoid iron deficiency.
Read on to know about the symptoms and signs of iron deficiency:
- Fatigue and exhaustion: This is one of the most common symptoms of iron deficiency. This sign indicates that enough oxygen is not reaching the cells in the body. The body uses iron to make hemoglobin that is found in the red blood cells. The hemoglobin carries oxygen through the various cells and organs of the body. The lack of iron leads to a low level of hemoglobin. The lack of oxygen affects the body’s energy levels. A person will, therefore, feel constantly tired. A person will also feel weak and cranky. They will find it hard to concentrate on their task and will have poor productivity at work.
- Pale skin: This is another common sign of iron deficiency, along with the pale appearance of skin inside the lower eyelids. Doctors usually look for this symptom when they suspect an iron deficiency. Blood gets its color from hemoglobin. Paleness of skin is often observed in mild to severe cases of iron deficiency leading to anemia. With low levels of hemoglobin due to iron deficiency, the blood will be less red. The skin loses its healthy color. The paleness can be all over the body or in one area like the gums, face, nails, and inside of the lower eyelids or lips.
- Hair fall and hair loss: When iron deficiency causes anemia, it causes hair loss. This happens because the hair follicles do not get enough oxygen. Thus, they go into the resting stage and start to fall out. The hair does not grow again until the anemia is treated. A healthy person usually loses about 100 strands of hair every day. However, hair loss can be excessive in the case of iron deficiency; the hair may fall off in clumps. Moreover, the lack of oxygen can cause the hair to become weak and dry.
- Infections: The body needs sufficient amount of iron to keep the immune system healthy and strong. Infections are generally combatted in the spleen. The red blood cells in the body carry oxygen to the spleen and the lymph nodes. The lymph nodes are where white blood cells are located. These cells fight off infection in the body. When there is iron deficiency, there are not enough white blood cells produced in the body. Moreover, the white blood cells produced do not have sufficient infection-fighting power since they do not get enough oxygen. This makes the body susceptible to infections.
- Restless legs: Restless leg syndrome is related to iron deficiency in the body. A person with restless leg syndrome has a constant urge to move their legs even at rest. This is often accompanied by a strange and unpleasant crawling and itchy sensation in the legs and feet. The sensation gets worse in the night, so it becomes quite difficult to sleep. If the iron deficiency is more, the symptoms will be worse.
- Pica: In some cases, people with iron deficiency tend to develop a strange craving for non-edible and non-nutritive substances. These include paper, dirt, chalk, ice, or dirt. Submitting to these craving and eating these harmful substances will generate toxins in the body, which will lead to more complicated and serious health issues. The ingestion of these substances will further interfere with iron absorption in the body.