Anemia—a condition in which blood does not carry enough oxygen to the rest of the body—isn’t always easy to identify. Symptoms may be mild, especially at first, and can develop slowly over time. However, it’s important to be aware of potential symptoms, since anemia is a relatively common blood disorder that can cause serious complications if left untreated for too long.
Here are seven symptoms of iron deficiency anemia to watch out for.
Lack of energy: Unexplained fatigue is the most commonly reported symptom of iron deficiency anemia. If you find yourself struggling to perform daily activities due to tiredness, schedule an appointment with your doctor.
Shortness of breath: Since your blood does not carry sufficient oxygen when you are anemic, you may find yourself getting winded by activities that didn’t used to tire you, like walking up a flight of stairs. You might also find yourself getting dizzy or lightheaded easily.
Cold hands or feet: Coldness or numbness in your hands or feet may occur because your body is pulling blood from your extremities to get oxygen to the organs and tissues that need it.
Weakness: If your muscles aren’t getting enough oxygen, you may be left feeling physically weak. Workouts that you used to do regularly may become more difficult.
Frequent headaches: While the occasional headache isn’t necessarily a cause for concern, frequent headaches or headaches that don’t seem to improve with pain relievers may be a sign of anemia.
Pale skin: Your face, nail beds, or the palms of your hands may look paler than normal when you are anemic. The mucous membranes of your eyes may also be pale—you can check by gently pulling down your lower eyelid and looking at the line right above your eyelashes.
- Racing heart or chest pain: Your heart has to work harder to get oxygen when you are anemic, so you may experience a pounding heart, irregular heartbeat, or chest pain.
Anemia can be unpleasant and can get in the way of daily activities, but fortunately, it is usually easy to treat. The first step is to determine that anemia truly is the cause of your symptoms. Schedule an appointment with your doctor and tell them about your concern; they will likely want to run blood tests to measure your hemoglobin and hematocrit levels.
If you are diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia, your doctor may tell you to start eating foods that are high in iron or to take daily iron supplements if you can’t get enough of this mineral in your diet. Iron supplements are available over the counter, but you should still talk to your doctor before taking them, as he or she can tell you how to use them safely. For more information about anemia including management, treatment and medications, visit our Anemia Condition Page and view coupons for related drugs.