Iron is a mineral with many important functions. It is part of all cells and many enzymes. It is also a component of the protein hemoglobin, which carries oxygen from our lungs to tissues throughout our body. And iron helps our muscles use oxygen.
Iron deficiency anemia doesn’t happen overnight, but instead over time. Initially, iron deficiency develops, a stage when iron stores are depleted though overall health is not impaired.
Iron deficiency anemia, a state when the body doesn’t have enough iron to build healthy red blood cells, may have a greater impact on your health.
Symptoms of Iron Deficiency
During the initial stage of iron deficiency a person may have no signs or symptoms of iron deficiency. However, because iron plays a key role in carrying oxygen to the body’s tissues, by the time iron deficiency anemia develops, adults may notice any of the following signs and symptoms iron deficiency anemia:
- Weakness and fatigue
- Decreased performance at work or school
- Feeling cold, difficulty maintaining adequate body temperature
- Impaired immune functioning
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
Just feeling tired may or may not be due to iron deficiency anemia. Several conditions, diseases, poor diet and the stresses of everyday life can all contribute to fatigue.
Detecting Iron Deficiency
Many people ask if they have to give blood to find out if they are iron deficient. If you think you may have an iron deficiency or iron deficiency anemia, talk to your physician and ask for blood tests to determine if you have low iron.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nutrition for Everyone: Iron and Iron Deficiency. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/vitamins/iron.html March 8, 2012.