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Iron deficiency symptoms in women: The 10 signs YOU might have iron deficiency

Doctor advises what to eat to help an iron deficiency

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Iron deficiency, even without being anaemic, means that your body does not have enough iron. Your body needs iron to help carry oxygen through your blood to all parts of your body. According to the Association of Anaesthetists, the documented prevalence of iron deficiency in women ranges from 15 to 18 percent globally. Think you might be deficient in iron? Here are the 10 signs, according to the NHS and the US Office of Women’s Health.

Iron-deficiency anaemia is the most common type of anaemia.

You can be iron deficient and anaemic, or simply just iron deficient.

Anaemia is a condition that happens when your body does not make enough healthy red blood cells or the blood cells do not work correctly, and iron deficiency is when you don’t have enough iron in your body and it causes the same symptoms.

The Office of Women’s Health information explains: “Your body needs iron to make haemoglobin, the part of the red blood cell that carries oxygen through your blood to all parts of your body.”

Iron-deficiency anaemia affects one in six pregnant women – it’s more common in pregnant women because you need more iron during pregnancy to support your unborn baby’s development.

Up to five percent of women of childbearing age develop iron-deficiency anaemia because of heavy bleeding during their periods.

Bleeding can cause you to lose more blood cells and iron than your body can replace, so if you have heavy periods, longer than normal periods, uterine fibroids, or any other condition that causes bleeding, you’re at higher risk of iron deficiency.

Infants, small children, and teens are also at high risk for iron-deficiency anaemia.

Iron-deficiency anaemia often develops slowly and in the beginning, you may not have any symptoms, or they may be mild.

As it gets worse, The Office of Women’s Health said you may notice one or more of these symptoms:

  • Fatigue (very common)
  • Weakness (very common)
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Low body temperature
  • Pale or yellow “sallow” skin
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath or chest pain, especially with physical activity
  • Brittle nails
  • Pica (unusual cravings for ice, very cold drinks, or non-food items like dirt or paper)

If you think you may have iron deficiency anaemia, you must see your GP.

The GP will ask you about your lifestyle and medical history and if the reason for anaemia isn’t obvious, you may need a full blood count test or a referral to a specialist.

The NHS also recommends talking to your doctor about getting referred to a gynaecologist to discuss your heavy menstrual periods.

Once the reason you have anaemia has been found (for example, heavy periods or pregnancy) the GP will recommend a relevant treatment.

If the blood test shows your red blood cell count is low, you’ll probably be prescribed iron tablets to replace the iron that’s missing from your body.

This step is totally necessary as the iron tablets you can buy over the counter in supermarkets and pharmacies aren’t strong enough if you’re deficient.

You’ll need to take these tablets for about six months.

Your GP may carry out repeat blood tests over the next few months to check that your iron level is getting back to normal.

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