Iron deficiency occurs when body gets less iron than it’s needed to make hemoglobin. Almost always it’s caused by blood loss which can be result of heavy menstrual periods, long-term ASA use, uterine cancer, colon cancer, peptic ulcer disease and malignancies (cancerous tumors). Iron deficiency can also be result of low intake of iron if there isn’t enough iron-containing food in one’s diet.
Iron deficiency symptoms in babies
Symptoms of iron deficiency in babies are: fatigue, loss of appetite, pale skin and pale or bluish whites of the eyes, irritability, shortness of breath and blood in the stool. Symptoms are more severe if a baby has been iron deficient for a long time or if iron deficiency leads to anemia.
At the highest risk of developing symptoms of iron deficiency are prematurely and under-weighted born infants. These babies are born with iron stores that may last only about two months (full-term infant have accumulated iron stores that can last 4 to 6 months).
Iron deficiency can also occur if baby grow rapidly, if it’s breast-fed but don’t get iron from other sources (after 4 months) or baby drink cow’s milk before its first birthday. When baby begin to eat solid food it can get iron from fish, eggs and legumes (dried beans and lentils), meats and poultry, iron-fortified baby cereals and leafy green vegetables (kale and spinach).
Iron deficiency symptoms in children
Symptoms of iron deficiency in children are similar to those in babies: fatigue, poor appetite, pale skin, headache, dizziness and coldness in hands and feet. Make sure that your child intake enough iron because people need more iron when they grow up.
Sources of iron are: meat, poultry, eggs, nuts and fish. Take care that your child has plenty of vegetables and fruits because vitamin C helps the body to absorb iron. Iron deficiency can occur after diarrhea or because of intestinal parasites such as worms.
Iron deficiency can lead to behavioral problems, slowed growth and development and it can put children at greater risk for infections and lead poisoning.
Iron deficiency symptoms in adults
The symptoms of iron deficiency may not be noticed because they appear gradually and depends on its severity. If deficiency is mild or moderate probably there won’t be any signs.
If deficiency is severe symptoms will occur. The most common symptom is fatigue (tiredness) which occurs when body have less red blood cells than it’s needed to carry oxygen to its many parts.
The red blood cells than have less hemoglobin (it is an iron-rich protein which helps red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body). With deficiency of hemoglobin your heart needs to work harder to move oxygen through body which can lead to arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats), an enlarged heart, a heart murmur or heart failure.
That hard work on moving oxygen through body causes fatigue which many people are unaware of until after they have been treated. Anemia can cause shortness of breath, headache, pale skin, pale gums, brittle nails, eyelid linings, dizziness, chest pain and coldness in hands and feet.
Other symptoms may include: decreased appetite (especially in children), unusual food cravings, swelling or soreness of the tongue, low blood pressure (especially when going from lying to standing), weakness, and cracks in the sides of the mouth, irritability and shortness of breath.
Frequent infections can also be sign that there is deficiency of iron. Unusual food cravings mean craving for nonfood items for example ice, paint, dirt or starch.
Iron deficiency can lead to RLS syndrome (restless legs syndrome), disorder that creates a strong urge to move the legs. People who develop this syndrome usually move legs nervously; they sense unpleasant feelings in the legs and have a hard time sleeping.
If deficiency is caused by lack of iron in your diet you can get iron that you need if you consume iron-rich foods such as: meat, leafy green vegetables, eggs and iron-fortified foods. But this won’t help if your body is unable to absorb iron (in case there is intestinal disorder, such as Celiac disease).
Pregnant women often suffer from anemia if they don’t take iron supplementation. Anemia occurs because their iron stores are source of hemoglobin for the growing fetus and they need to serve their own increased blood volume, so pregnant woman must intake twice as much iron as women who are not pregnant.
Due to illnesses or poor diet older adults may be at risk of iron deficiency. Illnesses may reduce iron absorption of iron and make symptoms of other conditions become even worse.
If you think that you have iron deficiency and you develop symptoms of it you should see your doctor. Anemia is not something that you should treat on your own and before your doctor diagnoses iron deficiency you shouldn’t take iron supplements. Too much iron can be dangerous for your health and it can cause liver damage or other complications.