9 Signs of Iron Deficiency You May Not Know About

Iron deficiency, also known as iron deficiency anemia, occurs when you have a lower count of red blood cells than normal. Iron deficiency is a specific type of anemia and is actually the most common; as the name suggests, the disorder happens when there’s a lack of the mineral iron in the body.

Although this deficiency is extremely common, many people don’t know that they suffer from this type of anemia. Causes can range from heavy bleeding during menstruation to a lackluster iron intake to some kind of internal bleed.

Women, especially of a “childbearing age” (which is typically categorized as ages 20-35 ), are prone to iron deficiency. People who were born prematurely or vegetarians who don’t get proper iron intake are also examples of individuals who are at risk for anemia.

If you’re a potential person at risk, check out these 9 common symptoms of iron deficiency anemia, and make note of anything that sounds too familiar.

1. Brittle Nails

Notice that your nails tend to break and chip regularly? It might not be that cheap nail polish, after all. Studies have found that nails need a sufficient amount of iron to remain strong and healthy, so a deficiency in the mineral will directly result in lackluster nails.

2. Odd Cravings

Also known as “pica,” this compulsion involves eating typically inedible things; dirt, paper, clay, ect. Another form of this is called “pagophagia,” although this involves a craving for and constantly chewing ice rather than non-food items.

Medical professionals are unsure why this symptom is so commonly associated with iron deficiency, although it may be the body instinctively searching for the mineral outside of the typical diet.

3. Tongue Swelling

Patients with iron deficiency may develop an inflamed, sore, and swollen tongue. The tongue will appear pale and smooth due to low levels of hemoglobin (an iron-rich protein in red blood cells) and the swelling often causes problems with chewing, swallowing and speaking.

4. Headaches

Consistent headaches that won’t go away? If paired with some of these symptoms, iron deficiency may be to blame. The problem comes back to the lack of hemoglobin in the blood, caused by low levels of iron.

Hemoglobin helps red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body, so low hemoglobin means less oxygen in the brain, which can often result in painful headaches.

5. Cold Hands and Feet

This is a particularly important symptom in women, whose core body temperature is typically one to two degrees colder than men’s. But the big reason for these uncomfortable bouts of cold can actually be tied back to the thyroid.

Lack of iron can alter your thyroid hormone metabolism, which regulates body heat generation. If low iron levels are slowing down your metabolism, you’ll notice irregular heating affects your hands and feet most.

6. Regular Infections

If you find yourself constantly going to the doctor to treat yet ANOTHER infection, iron deficiency might be to blame. Yes, iron deficient people are more prone to infections or inflammation of your internal organs – and frequently, too. It’s crucial to bring this observation to your doctor if you find yourself in and out of their office.

7. Tingling in the Legs

The sensation of numbness or tingling, especially in the legs, leads us back to an insufficient amount of hemoglobin. Without iron, we have less hemoglobin, and with less hemoglobin, we have a less even distribution of oxygen throughout the body. This is often most noticeably felt through a tingling in the legs, like frequent pins and needles.

8. Paleness

Again, if your blood flow and distribution of oxygen are lacking, your body is affected head to toe. You better believe the complexion of your face is counted in that. Healthy blood flow keeps your face looking healthy and flushed (that’s why blushing is actually blood rushing to your cheeks).

Lack of that causes, you guessed it, intensified paleness.

9. General Fatigue

Similarly to headaches, low levels of hemoglobin mean less oxygen going to the brain. The consistent flow of oxygen helps to keep the body functional, so an interruption in this flow can often cause chronic tiredness.

If you are experiencing this, or any of the symptoms listed above, check with your doctor to make sure your iron levels are sufficient.