We speak of iron deficiency when there is not enough iron in the blood. It can lead to symptoms such as fatigue and dizziness, among many others.

Iron is an essential mineral for many bodily functions. It promotes the transport of oxygen in the blood. It is also essential for the proper development and functioning of cells, as well as the production of certain hormones and tissues. If a person’s iron level is too low, these functions can be disrupted and lead to iron deficiency anemia. In most cases, this condition is easily treatable.
This article discusses the symptoms of iron deficiency, as well as when to seek medical attention.

Symptoms of iron deficiency

Symptoms of iron deficiency vary depending on its severity and the person’s overall health. In the case of mild or moderate iron deficiency, the person may not experience any noticeable symptoms. Sometimes iron deficiency can lead to iron deficiency anemia. The body does not have enough red blood cells or hemoglobin in the blood.

Iron deficiency anemia can cause the following symptoms:

– fatigue
– weakness
– dizziness
– headache
– temperature sensitivity
– cold hands and feet
– shortness of breath
– chest pain
– difficulty concentrating
– heart palpitations
– restless leg syndrome
– cravings for inedible foods, such as ice cream or dirt.

There are also several physical signs of iron deficiency to look out for, such as:

– brittle nails
– cracks on the sides of the mouth
– hair loss
– inflammation of the tongue
– abnormally pale or yellow skin
– irregular heartbeat or breathing

Causes of iron deficiency

Iron deficiencies occur when an insufficient amount of iron is present in the blood. There are several potential causes of a lack of iron, including the following:


Iron is found in many types of foods, including fish, fortified cereals, beans, meat, and leafy green vegetables.
It is recommended that adult men consume 8 milligrams (mg) of iron per day and adult women consume 18 mg per day before age 50 and 8 mg after age 50.

Iron malabsorption

Certain conditions and medications can prevent the body from absorbing iron properly, even when a person eats a lot of iron-rich foods.
Conditions that can cause problems with iron absorption include:

– intestinal and digestive conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease
– gastrointestinal surgery, such as gastric bypass
– rare genetic mutations

Blood loss

Hemoglobin is a protein found in red blood cells. It contains most of the body’s iron. This is why blood loss can lead to iron deficiencies and anemia. Blood loss can result from injury, too frequent blood tests, or donations. But it can also occur due to certain conditions or medications, including:

– internal bleeding due to an ulcer or colon cancer
– regular use of aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
– heavy periods
– urinary tract bleeding
– rare genetic conditions
– surgery

Other pathologies

Other conditions can lead to iron deficiency, including

– renal failure
– congestive heart failure
– obesity

Iron is especially important during periods of growth. For this reason, children and pregnant women have a higher risk than others of developing iron deficiency and anemia.


To diagnose an iron deficiency, a doctor may first perform a physical exam. They will also ask about the person’s symptoms and any risk factors, such as heavy menstrual bleeding or an underlying disease. If a doctor suspects iron deficiency, they will usually order a blood test. The results of these tests can provide information such as the total amount of red blood cells and the iron content of the blood.


The exact treatment for iron deficiency depends on the cause and the severity of the condition.
In most cases, a doctor will prescribe iron tablets. These are medicated supplements that contain more iron than over-the-counter multivitamin supplements.
In cases where iron malabsorption is a problem, iron can be given intravenously. It is also an option in other cases, especially in cases of severe blood loss. In the most serious cases, a blood transfusion may be necessary.
If internal bleeding is the cause of the deficiency, surgery may be required.
A doctor may also suggest dietary changes to include more iron-rich foods. Discover in this article a variety of foods rich in iron.


Anemia. (nd).

Iron [Fact sheet]. (2018).

Iron-deficiency anemia. (nd).

Iron-deficiency anemia. (nd).

Iron deficiency anaemia. (2014).

* criptom strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information given can not replace the opinion of a health professional.