What Happens When Your Iron's Low?

When your iron's low, it can lead to iron deficiency anemia. The main symptoms of this are tiredness and weakness. In some cases, it may conceal a bigger problem, and that's why early detection is so important.
What Happens When Your Iron's Low?

Last update: 19 March, 2021

Iron’s a basic building block in our body. It’s part of hemoglobin, which is the molecule that allows our red blood cells to take up oxygen and distribute it to all the cells of the body. This oxygen’s essential for bodily functions. Therefore, when your iron’s low, it leads to consequences in the body.

Low iron is often confused with anemia. However, this isn’t the case, as there are many different types of anemia resulting from other reasons. What’s true is that low iron is indeed associated with iron deficiency anemia.

Iron deficiency is one of the most widespread nutritional deficiencies in the world. Both this deficiency and iron deficiency anemia can have serious health consequences. Therefore, in this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about this problem.

What happens if my iron’s low?

To know what happens when your iron’s low, you must first know what the right levels are. The iron that circulates in the blood’s normally between 50 and 150 mg/dl.

However, there are certain forms of iron storage in the body. Ferritin is a protein that’s responsible for storing iron, and we must take its values into account when measuring total iron.

The truth is that there are many causes of this deficit. Most cases occur in women, due to menstruation. This is because, with the loss of blood, there’s also a decrease in iron levels.

You should also take into account that we obtain this product through food. In fact, we find it mainly in meat. For this reason, certain eating habits, such as being vegetarian, can cause a deficit.

The same happens when there’s a digestive problem that prevents us from absorbing iron. For example, low iron is often one of the first symptoms of celiac disease or other chronic digestive diseases, such as Crohn’s disease.

A vial of blood that reads "anemia". This iron's low.

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What are the symptoms of iron deficiency?

The truth is that, in the beginning, when the deficit isn’t too pronounced, there are usually no symptoms. However, as the anemia progresses, different signs appear.

First of all, when your iron’s low, you tend to be more tired and feel weaker.

However, it’s not only that. The following symptoms also appear:

  • Hair loss
  • Brittle nails
  • Pale and cold skin
  • Headaches
  • Decreased appetite (especially in children).

You may be interested in: What Is Fanconi Anemia?

What to do to diagnose and treat low iron

A woman who's feeling exhausted because her iron's low.
Low iron levels in the blood cause excessive fatigue.

The most important thing is to see a doctor frequently and, even more so, for any of the symptoms mentioned above. With a simple blood test, you’ll be able to check your iron levels and know whether or not your iron’s low.

To solve this problem, maintaining an adequate diet is essential. Experts recommend consuming legumes, meat, fish, and eggs. The truth is that if your diet’s balanced and healthy, then this disorder’s much less likely to appear.

In many cases, certain tests are needed to find the cause of this deficit. For example, digestive endoscopy can be used to check if there’s an ulcer or gastric problem that’s influencing your iron levels.

At the same time, a colonoscopy can be used to rule out bleeding in the final part of the digestive tract. This situation frequently occurs in colon cancer, so anemia in a suspicious patient is indicative and suggestive of the neoplasm.

On some occasions, doctors prescribe iron supplements to solve this deficiency. However, it’s important to only take them under a prescription, as these supplements also have side effects and should be used in moderation.

In conclusion

Low iron’s not uncommon. It’s mostly women who suffer from anemia due to iron losses caused by menstruation. On the other extreme, in men over 50 years of age with iron deficiency, colon cancer may be suspected.

It’s essential to perform the recommended annual check-ups to detect a problem with iron. You should visit your doctor regularly so that he/she can request the appropriate complementary methods for your age and clinical situation.

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