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What are the symptoms of iron deficiency anemia?

If you suspect you have anemia, you should see your health care provider who will do a physical exam as well as blood tests to make a diagnosis, and treat the condition if you do have anemia. Some symptoms your doctor may ask you about include: Blue-tinged or very pale whites of eyes; Brittle nails; Decreased appetite; Fatigue; Headache; Irritability; Pale skin color; Shortness of breath; Sore tongue; Unusual food cravings (called pica); Weakness & fatigue which usually gets worse when you do something physical. These symptoms may (or may not) be related to iron or anemia, so if you suspect you are anemic, or have some of these symptoms, make sure to see your health care provider.
Symptoms of iron deficiency anemia can include feeling weak, tired and/or irritable, having problems concentrating or being unable to handle hard exercise sessions very well.  Because iron is essential for the formation and use of hemoglobin, a protein that delivers oxygen throughout the body, and myoglobin, a protein that transports oxygen to muscles, low levels of iron lead to fatigue.

Iron deficiency actually occurs in three stages that get worse as iron levels plummet: depletion, marginal deficiency and anemia.

The following groups have an increased risk of developing iron deficiency anemia:
  • women
  • teenage girls
  • distance runners
  • vegetarian athletes
  • female athletes
  • those who lose a significant amount of blood during their menstrual cycle
  • people who take excessive amounts of antacids
  • people with certain digestive diseases such as celiac disease 
If you are anemic, you may find yourself having a tough time getting enough air when you exercise, while your muscles may feel like dead weight. Correcting iron deficiency anemia will reduce muscle fatigue and improve endurance.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.