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7 Silent Signs You May be Iron Deficient

Don't wait for a diagnosis.

Iron is an essential nutrient used by the body to create red blood cells, which carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. But more than a third of women younger than 50 are deficient in iron, the New York Times reported earlier this month. Menstruation and pregnancy are two of the main reasons, and iron deficiency can have serious consequences, including lower immunity and cognition. But iron deficiency often goes undiagnosed, leaving women to alert their doctors of the symptoms. These are some of the silent signs you may be iron deficient.

Shortness of Breath

young woman having difficulty breathing
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"The symptoms of iron deficiency are often nonspecific and nebulous," the Times reports. One of these vague signs includes shortness of breath.

Brain Fog

Man using calculator foggy confused

Because iron is needed to transfer oxygen to the brain, a lack of iron can cause brain fog.


Sleepy young woman drinking coffee at kitchen counter

Fatigue and weakness might also result from iron deficiency, the Cleveland Clinic says.

Lightheadedness or Dizziness

Blurred photo of a woman suffering from headache or stroke
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"Dizziness is known to be the biggest symptom of low iron," says North Houston Internal Medicine. "After the dizziness fades away, your body might follow it up with a severe headache.

The reason this happens is because there's not enough blood traveling to your brain, causing the blood vessels to swell. So if you feel like your head is throbbing and you can't focus, it's probably just your blood vessels waiting for the oxygen.

Increased Sensitivity to Cold

Sick young woman headache fever cough cold sneezing sitting under the blanket on sofa in living room at home.

When you lack iron, you may become anemic, a condition in which the body makes fewer red blood cells. "People with anemia don't have enough red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body. Without adequate oxygen, it may be harder for your cells to tolerate cold," Henry Ford Health explains.

Pale Skin

young woman studying skin on her arm
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Pallor can be a sign of low iron, experts say. It's caused by decreased blood flow to the skin.

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Heart Palpitations

Woman Holding Her Heart
Sasin Paraksa/Shutterstock

"This can be a scary experience, and it's a sign that your heart is working harder due to the decreased amount of oxygen in your blood," says Advanced ER.

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