Could I have iron deficiency? Causes, symptoms and treatments.
Do you often feel tired, breathless or weak?
These are familiar symptoms for someone with iron deficiency.
What is iron deficiency?
This common condition occurs when the body lacks iron. Iron is an essential mineral that builds red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. Iron deficiency can be diagnosed by a doctor using a simple blood test.
What are the symptoms of iron deficiency?
Women and vegetarians are more at risk, but anyone can suffer from iron deficiency.
Symptoms of iron deficiency include:
- Unusual fatigue (tiredness)
- Pale skin – if you have dark skin, you may notice that your skin is dull in colour, or that the inside of your bottom eyelids are pale instead of bright red.
- Shortness of breath – if you easily get out of breath, make an appointment with your doctor. If you are suddenly out of breath, and have chest pain or other symptoms, call 000 now.
- Heart palpitations (irregular heartbeats)
- Dry and damaged hair and skin
- Swollen or sore tongue and mouth – or your tongue may be pale or unusually smooth
- Mouth ulcers and cracks at the corners of your lips
- Restless leg syndrome
- Strange cravings – wanting to eat things such as ice, paper, or dirt
If you have these symptoms, it is very important to see your doctor. Iron deficiency can cause complications. Furthermore, these can also be symptoms of thyroid or heart conditions.
Why does iron deficiency need treatment?
Left untreated, iron deficiency can cause complications such as:
- Heart problems
- Higher chance of infections
- Pregnancy issues, such as premature birth and low birth weight
- Growth issues in children
How much iron do I need?
Your iron needs depend on your age and gender.
Group Daily iron needs
Children under 14 have different iron needs – speak to your GP for more information.
How can I get enough iron?
Examples of foods high in iron include:
- lamb liver
- chicken eggs
Vegetarian and plant foods high in iron include:
- wheat bran
- red lentils, chickpeas, and beans
- dark leafy vegetables, such as spinach
- dry green peas
- oyster mushrooms
- sundried tomato
- wholemeal pasta
Some foods, such as cereal, bread, tofu, and plant milks, may be fortified with iron. Check the packet.
Click here to download information on how much iron you need and examples of iron rich diets.
What is the treatment for iron deficiency?
After you are diagnosed with iron deficiency, your doctor may tell you to eat a high-iron diet, and prescribe iron tablets. But perhaps the iron tablets aren’t working, or they cause unwanted effects like constipation or nausea. Or maybe your iron level is very low, and you need to increase it quickly for medical reasons.
In that case, an iron infusion might be right for you. This fast and safe procedure rapidly increases your iron levels, without the side effects of taking iron tablets by mouth. DPV Health is pleased to offer iron infusions thanks to the expertise of Dr Zahid Haider at the skin clinic.
What does the procedure involve?
“An iron infusion is a large dose of iron in a drip,” Dr Haider from DPV Health explains. The new infusion technique takes only 30 minutes, and in total the procedure takes just over an hour. “It’s a very efficient way of increasing your iron quickly,” Dr Haider says. “You feel so much better in a day or two, rather than taking tablets for three or six months.” Speak to your doctor for advice on whether iron infusion is right for you.
Who might need an iron infusion?
People need an iron infusion when they cannot benefit from oral iron tablets or need to increase their iron levels quickly. For example:
- People who have experienced side effects from iron tablets
- People with certain conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease
- People with extremely low iron levels
- People with ongoing blood loss due to cancers or ulcers
- People about to have surgery
Iron infusion is available at DPV Health in Broadmeadows Skin Clinic by Dr Haider. For more information click here
If you have any symptoms of iron deficiency or to get your iron levels checked, please make an appointment with our friendly GP’s by calling 1300 234 263 or book online.
Iron Infusions (thewomens.org.au)
Iron deficiency anemia – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic
Fatigue: Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment & More (healthline.com)
Iron-Deficiency Anemia | NHLBI, NIH
Iron | Nutrition Australia
Iron Infusions (thermh.org.au)