The consequences of an iron deficiency

There are many consequences derived from the lack of iron that you may not be aware of, such as hair loss, bad mood and extreme tiredness.
The consequences of an iron deficiency
José Gerardo Rosciano Paganelli

Reviewed and approved by the doctor José Gerardo Rosciano Paganelli.

Last update: 09 October, 2022

The most important sign of iron deficiency is anemia according to this study by Hospital Ramón y Cajal in Madrid, although this problem has more consequences that are worth knowing.

However, there are more consequences of iron deficiency that are worth knowing. If you think you may be consuming less iron, we recommend paying attention to the following symptoms.

Iron deficiency is a global problem

Red blood cells.

Millions of people suffer from this nutrient deficiency in both developed and undeveloped countries due to inefficient consumption.

No one should ignore iron deficiency, because it has harmful consequences for our health.

Characteristics of iron

Among its many functions, iron allows hemoglobin to function correctly and provide oxygen to all cells. 

It’s essential for health. Furthermore, since iron is found in small quantities in our body, we must obtain it through food with a balanced and varied diet.

There are two types of iron:

  • The first is haem iron, found in animal meats. It’s easily absorbed.
  • The second is non-haem iron. This is found in vegetables and is not as easily absorbed by the body. This is why many vegetarians and vegans suffer from anemia.

Likewise, these are other things iron does:

  • It participates in the production of substances from the blood.
  • And, intervenes in DNA synthesis.
  • It’s part of the cellular respiration process.
  • Finally, it assists in maintaining the immune system.

In addition, iron also participates in many chemical reactions and is vital in the production and release of energy.

Your iron levels

You can get a blood test to find out whether you have an iron deficiency. According to Chemocare, the values must be as follows:

  • The normal values in adult men are 50 to 160 ug/dl.
  • In adult women, they’re 40 to 150 ug/dl.
  • For children, they vary from 50 to 120 ug/dl.
  • In infants under the age of one, the values should be between 100 and 250 ug/dl.

If your iron levels are higher than average, this could be due to diseases like:

Likewise, your iron levels may decrease in some specific circumstances such as:

The consequences of an iron deficiency

Anemia blood test.

Pay attention to certain signs that can tell you if your body lacks this essential nutrient.

If you have several of these symptoms, you must consult a doctor and get a blood test:

1. Weakness and tiredness

Regardless of how many hours you sleep or the times you rest during the day, you always feel lethargic and lack strength. It’s hard for you to get up in the morning and you fall asleep anywhere.

This weakness or fatigue may be caused by a lack of iron. Since this nutrient allows oxygen to be transported to cells if your body doesn’t have enough of it, your tissues don’t receive “fuel” and they don’t work as they should.

Hence, less vitality and extreme fatigue after completing low-impact activities may be related to iron deficiency according to this information the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in the USA.

2. Poor performance and a bad mood

A woman sleeping at her desk.

Iron deficiency has a direct impact on our emotional states. That’s why it’s normal for us to be very irritable, depressed, or moody when we lack iron.

In addition, if we add fatigue to this, the consequences are understandable. They can range from problems with work performance, with your studies, or completing everyday tasks.

Pay attention if everything has been going wrong lately and you can’t concentrate on your activities.

Furthermore, iron deficiency has a negative influence on memory and attention. You will need to work twice as hard at everything. According to this study by Hospital Infantil de México Federico Gómez. You’ll also lose your motivation quickly, even when it comes to attempting to do tasks you like.

3. The consequences of an iron deficiency – pallor

When you have anemia, your skin might become paler or whiter than usual according to this study by Hospital Nacional Dos de Mayo de Lima in Peru.

This is because both the dermis and the mucosa tissues aren’t receiving enough oxygen.

Some people may have a whitish color under their eyes (where the eyelashes start).

4. Dizziness and nausea

One of the consequences of a lack of iron and a deficit in the amount of oxygen that the cells receive is feeling continuously dizzy.

In addition, according to this study by Centro Hospitalario Pereira Rosell, you may feel like you can’t get air when you try to breathe. You may also inhale faster and more frequently (polypnea).

In more severe cases, people who don’t consume sufficient amounts of this nutrient may pass out at any time of the day. They may also experience ringing in their ears or suffer from lipodystrophies.

5. Palpitations

The rapid heartbeats that occur when you’re not exerting yourself or exercising can be consequences of iron deficiency in some cases:

6. Fragile nails and hair loss

If your nails break easily, are thin, or have white marks on them near the cuticle, it could be due to a lack of iron.

In the case of hair loss, this is due to the blood reaching the head with little oxygenation. Hence, it doesn’t nourish the hair follicles, according to this study by Policlínico Docente Ramón López Peña in Santiago de Cuba.

As you can see, there are many consequences of iron deficiency. So, this is why you must know what to do if you think you lack it.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. (2011). Guia breve sobre la Anemia. Changes, Healthy Lifestyle.

  • Vaquero, R. M. . P., Rojo, R. B., & Abascal, L. T. (2011). Nutrición y Anemia. Manual Práctico de Nutrición y Salud.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.