You, or anyone in your family, may be iron deficient.

Detecting Iron Deficiency

It’s possible to experience symptoms for years without knowing you are iron deficient.
Iron deficiency can happen to anyone when there is too little iron in the body. As your iron stores deplete, your body starts to send out signals. The most common symptoms of iron deficiency (anaemia) are feelings of fatigue or extreme tiredness, shortness of breath and dizziness.

What are the symptoms of iron deficiency1-11

Feeling unusually tired is one of the most common symptoms of iron deficiency. Along with fatigue, you may feel irritable, weak and experience low energy levels.

Your ability to concentrate begins to decrease, resulting in a lack of productivity and efficiency in any task at hand.

The lack of iron results in reduced levels of haemoglobin, which means your body—including your brain—is not getting enough oxygen. This can lead to headaches, even migraines, and dizziness.

The lack of oxygen caused by a lack of haemoglobin can leave you feeling breathless after normal activities.

Low levels of haemoglobin due to an iron deficiency means your heart needs to work harder to carry oxygen throughout your body. This can lead to heart palpitations or irregular heartbeats, even the feeling that your heart is beating abnormally fast.

With iron deficiency, there is less oxygen making its way to your hands and feet, and this can cause you to feel cold more easily in general, or to have cold hands and feet.

Craving for non-food items including ice, clay, dirt, chalk or paper could be a sign of iron deficiency.

The strong urge to move your legs while you rest is a possible sign of iron deficiency. It has been known to cause unpleasant and strange crawling or itchy sensations in the feet and legs, resulting in a lack of proper sleep at night.

Brittle or spoon-shaped nails is a condition called koilonychia. It often starts with brittle nails that chip and crack easily. However, this is a sign of severe iron deficiency anaemia, and is not a common symptom for iron deficiency.

Iron deficiency can cause dry mouth, sore red cracks at the corners of your mouth, or even mouth ulcers. This condition is called angular cheilitis.

Paleness is more commonly associated with moderate to severe cases of anaemia. It can appear all over your body, or in certain areas.

A swollen, inflamed, pale or smooth tongue are also signs of iron deficiency, usually iron deficiency anaemia.

Whilst it may be normal for some hair to fall during everyday washing and brushing, hair loss can be a sign of iron deficiency and should be addressed.

Find out for yourself

Wondering if you are iron deficient or not? Don’t worry.

The Iron Deficiency Symptom Checker can help you find out if you have depleted iron stores.

Should you feel the need to speak with your doctor, the results from this self-diagnosis tool will serve as a good starting point for discussion during your consultation.

Iron Deficiency Symptom Checker

Find out if you are iron deficient or not, by selecting any or all symptoms that apply to you.

Loss of concentration and mental fatigue
Loss of energy
Headaches
Shortness of breath
Irregular heartbeat
Cold intolerance
Craving to chew on ice
Restless leg syndrome
Cracked or spoon-shaped nails
Cracked lips
Pale skin
Swelling or soreness of the tongue
Hair loss

Results

If you are experiencing any of these iron deficiency symptoms, please consult your doctor.

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  2. World Health Organization. WHO guideline on use of ferritin concentrations to assess iron status in individuals and populations. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2020. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO. Available at: https://www.who.int/publications-detail/9789240000124. Accessed: April 2020.
  3. Tayyebi A, Poursadeghfard M, Nazeri M, Pousadeghfard T. Is There Any Correlation between Migraine Attacks and Iron Deficiency Anemia? A Case-Control Study. Int J Hematol Oncol Stem Cell Res. 2019;13(3):164-171.
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  7. Moiz B. (2018). Spoon nails: still seen in today's world. Clinical case reports, 6(3), 547–548. https://doi.org/10.1002/ccr3.1404.
  8. Devani A, Barankin B. Answer: Can you identify this condition?. Angular Cheilitis. Can Fam Physician. 2007;53(6):1022‐1023.
  9. Rebecca J. Stoltzfus, Anbarasi Edward-Raj, Michele L. Dreyfuss, Marco Albonico, Antonio Montresor, Makar Dhoj Thapa, Keith P. West, Jr., Hababuu M. Chwaya, Lorenzo Savioli, James Tielsch, Clinical Pallor Is Useful to Detect Severe Anemia in Populations Where Anemia Is Prevalent and Severe, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 129, Issue 9, September 1999, Pages 1675–1681, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/129.9.1675.
  10. Osaki T1, Ueta E, Arisawa K, Kitamura Y, Matsugi N. The pathophysiology of glossal pain in patients with iron deficiency and anemia. Am J Med Sci. 1999 Nov;318(5):324-9.
  11. Medical News Today. Can an iron deficiency cause hair loss? Rachel Nall, RN, MSN, CRNA on April 30, 2018. Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321668. Accessed: April 2020.