iron deficiency anemia

Iron deficiency anemia

Anemia is a low hemoglobin level caused by low iron or iron deficiency. So a lot of these signs and symptoms can be applicable to anemia in general. But we’re going to talk about some of the more specific ones that are associated with iron deficiency as well.

Symptoms of iron deficiency anemia

  • Fatigue– So feeling very tired and this is actually the most common symptom of iron deficiency anemia in general. And this is due to decreased oxygen delivery. There’s a low hemoglobin level. Hemoglobin is responsible for delivering oxygen to parts of our body. So fatigue again, most common symptom due to decreased oxygen delivery.
  • Decreased concentration– So having difficulty thinking, concentrating, focusing can be a sign of anemia. And the decreased concentration could be due to decreased oxygen delivery again and in general could be due to fatigue. So if you’re very tired, it may be difficult to concentrate.
  • Pica– Now you might be wondering what is Pica? Now Pica is actually cravings for non-food items and objects. So examples include dirt, paper, etc. Etc. So where an individual may have these weird cravings for dirt and other non-food items, this is known as Pica. And there’s a more specific term we can use when the craving is for ice. So this is called Pagophagia and it can be found in iron deficiency anemia as well. It is a craving and eating of ice. And pike in general is craving for non-food items like dirt, paper, and ice as well.
  • Koilonchia– It’s actually something known as spooning of the nails. Here the nail are curved in a way that resembles a spoon. So this is not normal curvature of nails and the nails can often be brittle as well. And this finding can be more specific to iron deficiency anemia.
  • Pallor– Individuals who have lighter skin, this can be more noticeable. And oftentimes pallor is more noticeable when hemoglobin levels are less than 70 to 80 grams per liter so very low hemoglobin levels can lead to pallor or pale skin. We can also see conjunctival pallor with anemia as well. What is conjunctival pallor? Conjunctival pallor is when you get an individual to pull down on their eyelid and you look and it’s quite pale. If you do it on a person who has normal hemoglobin levels, it’s more pink and red. But in an individual with anemia, especially with a very low hemoglobin level, it is pale, it’s light in color. And this is usually observed when hemoglobin is less than 80 grams per liter.
  • Weakness- Now, weakness is due to decreased oxygen delivery as well. So this can be tied in with fatigue. And we can also see presyncope and Syncope with anemia. It is when an individual feels dizzy, where it’s not, where the room is spinning, but where the room feels like it’s closing in and they feel faint. And if they actually were to faint, this is called Syncope. This is due to decreased blood and oxygen delivery to the brain. If the brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, doesn’t get enough blood, they can feel very faint. They can have this feeling of dizziness.
  • Dyspnea- which is a shortness of breath. And again, this is due to decreased oxygen delivery. So their body is not getting enough oxygen delivered to the tissues, this makes an individual feel short of breath.
  • Tachycardia– is an increased heart rate, oftentimes increased or higher than 100 beats per minute. And what’s important here is that this tachycardia is at rest. So it’s normal for an individual to have tachycardia if they’re working out or exercising or doing some exertional activity. But at rest, this can be a problem. And in iron deficiency anemia or anemia in general, doctors can see this, especially when there’s very low hemoglobin levels. And it’s because, again, there’s decreased oxygen delivery. The body senses that and tries to compensate by increasing the heart rate to try to get as much oxygen to tissues as possible. And we can also see other irregular rhythms as well.
  • Angina- is chest pain. This is often due to demand ischemia or can be due to demand ischemia. So demand ischemia is where hemoglobin is so low, there can be very low oxygen delivery even to the heart. So the heart can experience this and have ischemia or demand ischemia from it. So it can experience anginal, chest pain.
Also read about anemia in adults

Other important signs and symptoms of iron deficiency anemia

These include the following;  

  • Atrophic glossitis- This is more specific to iron deficiency anemia. The glossitis inflammation is the inflammation of the tongue. So inflammation of the tongue and it’s atrophic which means that it is a smooth tongue. When you see a lot of contours and ridges on the tongue, this tongue is atrophic, it is smooth. That is a sign of iron deficiency anemia.
  • Angular Cheilitis- In iron deficiency anemia, it’s an inflammation and cracking of the corners of the lips. So that is another sign of iron deficiency anemia.
  • Aphthhous Ulcers– They are little ulcers in the mouth. These are also known as oral ulcers. They’re white Gray in appearance with an erythematis ring around them, so reddened area and very sore in the mouth.
  • Restless leg syndrome- It is associated with iron deficiency in general. And iron deficiency can worsen an underlying restless leg syndrome. So it’s actually very interesting that if an individual has restless leg syndrome, it may be a symptom of iron deficiency anemia. Giving iron supplements can improve restless legs or restless leg syndrome.
  • Cold extremities- This includes cold hands and cold feet.
  • Reduced appetite- There is also reduced appetite seen in these individuals, especially in children and adolescents, and this can lead to weight loss.
  • Paresthesia- These are also another symptom of iron deficiency anemia. So paresthesia are tingling, burning, numbness types of sensations on the skin.
  • Splenomegaly- Another sign, a physical sign that may be found in patients with anemia. It is an enlarged spleen, and this may be associated with the reduced appetite. If the spleen has been enlarged so much, it could press on the stomach, leading to reduced appetite. But this is more due to extramedullary hematopoiesis. This mean there’s making of blood in other parts of the body that don’t necessarily always participate in making of blood. So extramedullary, it’s outside of the bones. The bones are generally where blood is made, but some parts of your body to try to compensate for low blood counts. They also activate to try to produce blood as well.
  • Anxiety- Anxiety is associated with anemia. We can also see depression being associated with anemia. This can be tied in together with fatigue and some of those other symptoms.
  • Irritability is also another symptom of iron deficiency anemia.
  • Headache is also one of the symptoms of anemia as well.