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What are deficiency symptoms of iron?


Although the human body conserves iron very well by reusing iron from old red blood cells to make hemoglobin for new red blood cells, iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the United States and around the world. Poor iron status may be caused by inadequate dietary intake, poor absorption, parasitic infection, and/or medical conditions that cause internal bleeding.

People who donate blood regularly, women with excessive menstrual bleeding, those who use medications (for example, antacids) that interfere with the absorption of iron, and pregnant and lactating women may be at risk for iron deficiency. In addition, the elderly, vegetarians, and children often have inadequate intake of this mineral.

Iron deficiency causes microcytic and hypochromic anemia, a condition characterized by underdeveloped red blood cells that lack hemoglobin, thereby reducing the oxygen carrying capacity of red blood cells. But even before iron deficiency anemia develops, people with poor iron status may experience a variety of symptoms including fatigue, weakness, loss of stamina, decreased ability to concentrate, increased susceptibility to infections, hair loss, dizziness, headaches, brittle nails, apathy, and depression.

Individuals with poor iron intake may also demonstrate an unusual eating behavior called pica, in which they eat unsuitable and/or inedible materials such as dirt, clay, laundry starch, charcoal, and/or lead paint chips. In children, iron deficiency is associated with learning disabilities and a lower IQ.

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