Symptoms of iron deficiency anemia: The word anemia refers to a deficiency of healthy red blood cells in the body. The red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen to the body and any deficiency or decreased quantity in the RBC impairs the oxygen-carrying capacity.
Anemia is of different types, iron deficiency anemia, megaloblastic anemia, aplastic anemia, sickle cell anemia, and thalassemia. Each of these anemias is caused due to impaired formation of red blood cells due to deficiency of nutrients or inability of the bone marrow to produce RBC.
What Causes Iron Deficiency?
If there is an imbalance between the amount of iron consumed and iron lost there will not be enough hemoglobin resulting in iron deficiency anemia. The common causes of iron deficiency anemia are
- Blood loss due to accidents, menstruation, pregnancy or chronic blood loss such as peptic ulcer, a hiatal hernia, a colon polyp or colorectal cancer
- A lack of iron in your diet
- Iron is absorbed in the body by the intestinal tract, intestinal disorders can lead to decreased absorption.
Iron Deficiency Anemia:
RBCs are composed of hemoglobin that holds the iron and is responsible for carrying oxygen. If the body is deficient in the amount of iron, there will be a decreased number of RBC.
The decreased levels of iron and oxygen in the body result in iron deficiency anemia and are one of the most common form anemias
Normal Iron Levels:
Optimum levels of Iron are important to maintain health and perform daily activities. A blood test is performed to check the iron levels in the body
Normal Hemoglobin Levels are:
- Adult: (males): 13.5 – 17 g/dl
- (Females): 12 – 15 g/dl Pregnancy: 11 – 12 g/dl
- Children: 11-16 g/dl
How to Check for Anemia?
Iron deficiency test: Your doctor may advise for blood tests to confirm iron deficiency of anemia. The following tests are performed
Hemoglobin: It is an important component of RBC, and measurement of hemoglobin levels indicates iron levels.
Size and Color of RBC: The RBC will be smaller in size and paler than normal
Ferritin: Low levels of ferritin are an indication of iron deficiency
Hematocrit: The normal levels vary between 35.5 and 44.9 percent for adult women and 38.3 to 48.6 percent for adult men.
10 Signs and Symptoms of Iron Deficiency:
1. Fatigue or Tiredness:
This is the most common symptoms of iron deficiency anemia. Iron is required to make hemoglobin. The decreased supply of hemoglobin means there are low levels of oxygen in the body.
The deprived oxygen in tissues and muscles leads to low energy levels and tiredness. The low oxygen levels require more effort for the heart for the normal functioning of the body.
It is important to differentiate between the tiredness due to a busy lifestyle and iron deficiency anemia.
During a doctor’s visit, you might have noticed him checking your lower eyelids. The aim is to check the color of the inner eyelid. Hemoglobin in the blood is responsible to give the color red.
Deficiency in hemoglobin changes the color to pale pink to yellow. The paleness can also be seen on the face, gums, and nails.
The paleness is an indication of moderate to severe iron deficiency anemia.
3. Shortness of Breath:
People suffering from iron deficiency anemia are deprived of oxygen. When a person performs daily activities like walking or climbing stairs, they find it difficult to breathe.
If you frequently get out of breath while doing normal daily chores, it might be an indication of iron deficiency anemia.
4. Headache and Dizziness:
The decreased supply of oxygen to the blood vessels in the brain causes it to swell. The swollen blood vessels exert pressure resulting in headaches and dizziness.
5. Increased Heart Beat:
The low levels of oxygen in the body causes the heart to work harder resulting in irregular heartbeats.
Your heart beats more than the normal that is also referred to as palpitations. The extreme cases can result in enlargement of heart and heart failure.
6. Dry Hair and Skin:
The hair and skins are deprived of oxygen hence they become dry and weak.
The hair fall is normal, but excessive hair fall should be monitored as the severe form of iron deficiency anemia can also result in hair loss.
7. Changes in Mouth and Tongue:
the deficiency of hemoglobin and myoglobin the tongue causes swelling and soreness. Due to low RBC, the tongue will be pale, swollen and inflamed.
The tongue and mouth become sore and smooth. One can do self-assessment of the mouth and tongue to analyze the signs and symptoms of iron deficiency anemia.
It also causes dry mouth and red cracks at the corners of the mouth.
8. Restless Leg Syndrome:
People suffering from iron deficiency anemia have a strong urge to move the legs when at rest. It is an unpleasant feeling with or without itching sensation in the feet and legs.
The symptoms worsen during the night and people struggle to continue sleeping.
9. Brittle Nails:
As iron deficiency anemia progresses, the nails become brittle and start to crack and chip off easily. In severe cases the nails become spoon-shaped.
Iron deficient people are always anxious and confused. The symptom gets corrected with improvement in iron levels.
The other symptoms of iron deficiency include cold hands and feet, food cravings, and lack of concentration. Anemic people have a weak immune system and are prone to infections.
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Foods Rich in Iron for iron Deficiency Anemia
- Egg Yolks is one of the best sources of haem and non-haem parts of hemoglobin.
- Dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and Legumes (soybeans, lentils, black beans, legumes, capsicum, etc
- Oysters & Mussels, in addition to iron, it also contains selenium, zinc, and Vitamin B12. This delicious seafood is an excellent source of iron.
- Lean Meat is one of the most common and rich sources of iron that gets easily absorbed by the body.
- Dried fruit, such as raisins and apricots
- Iron-fortified pasta, grains, rice, and cereals
Iron deficiency anemia is one of the common forms of anemia whose symptoms include, weakness, fatigue, palpitations, shortness of breath, dry hair and skin, swelling and soreness in the mouth and tongue. It can be corrected by the intake of lean meat, egg yolk, green leafy vegetables, seafood, and iron-fortified foods.