At first, iron deficiency anemia (IDA) can be so mild that it is hard to be noticed. But as the deficiency worsens, the signs and symptoms become more intense. There are some obvious signs and some strange iron deficiency signs. Iron deficiency anemia symptoms and signs may include:
- Pale skin
- Extreme fatigue
- Chest pain, shortness of breath or fast heartbeat
- Cold hands and feet
- Brittle nails
- Headache, dizziness or lightheadedness
- Poor appetite, especially in infants and children with iron deficiency anemia
While these are all common and expected signs, there are also some strange iron deficiency signs.
Unusual cravings for ice, dirt or starch
People with iron deficiency may develop cravings for non-food items such as dirt, chalk, clay, paint chips, corn starch, cardboard and cleaning supplies. Eating these substances could be very dangerous. This condition is known as pica and people are usually ashamed to admit they have this problem. Scientists aren’t sure why this happens to people with severe iron deficiencies. Iron supplements often help for patients who report non-food cravings.
Your nails can say a lot about your health even if they seem unrelated to the rest of your body. Along with brittle and weak nails, spoon nails can indicate an underlying iron problem.
This strange iron deficiency sign is called atrophic glossitis. It is a condition when tongue swells so much that the usual bumps on its surface disappear and make the tongue appear smooth. Swollen and tender tongue causes problems with swallowing, chewing and talking.
Everyone knows the pain of cracked lips thanks to dry rooms, difficult winter or just by having a habit of licking the lips. But among the people with iron deficiency appears a specific type of cracking called angular cheilitis. It affects the corners of the mouth and makes it difficult to smile, eat, or even shout. To keep the cracking to come back again you need to treat the underlying iron deficiency.
Restless Legs Syndrome
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) causes tugging, burning, tingling or unpleasant crawling sensation inside your legs. Some studies suggest that iron deficiency could be an underlying problem for RLS. (1)
Iron deficiency anemia can cause hair loss. This happens because if hair follicles don’t get enough oxygen, they go into a resting stage and hair starts to fall out. The hair grows back when the anemia is improved. If you notice you are losing your hair excessively and it is not growing back you might have iron deficiency.
Speak to your doctor if you’re experiencing these symptoms and include more iron-rich foods in your diet.