Low iron level in the blood is the leading cause of iron deficiency anemia, a condition in which the red blood cell count is insufficient, and the hemoglobin levels are greatly reduced. Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to various parts of the body.
Low iron levels in women can be temporary, chronic, or brought on as a result of another medical condition, and in most cases, can be reversed with changes in diet and lifestyle, although certain cases can be severe and serious.
There are a number of reasons that can lead to low iron levels in women. Generally, more women, than men, are likely to develop low iron levels because of the monthly loss of blood suffered during menstruation.
A diet low in iron is another leading factor, especially in the case of women who follow vegetarian diets or veganism, as they don't get sufficient amounts of iron-rich foods owing to the self-imposed dietary restrictions. Certain women may also have a hereditary problem which could cause anemia.
It may be linked to genetic changes that interfere with the body's ability to produce enough red blood cells, and sustain them. These hereditary conditions include sickle cell anemia, thalessimia, fanconi anemia, and congenital B12 malabsorption syndrome. Certain medications may also be the cause, like some drugs used in chemotherapy.
In many cases, there may be no symptoms of iron deficiency, especially when the levels are borderline or just shy of appreciably low. In other cases, symptoms may show up gradually, without any one symptom causing enough discomfort to warrant a check. Low iron levels will be detected in routine blood tests that will show low hemoglobin count.
There are some symptoms that can signal low iron levels:
- Shortness of breath
- Pale skin
- Brittle nails
- Chest pain
- Irregular heartbeat
- Cold extremities
- Lack of concentration
- Sexual dysfunction
- Heavy periods
In certain cases, low iron levels may also induce the desire to chew ice, or eat other peculiar non food items like paper, mud, and clay. This is a medical condition known as 'pica'. Other effects of low iron may include frequent infections and hair loss.
If the condition is not congenital, or caused as a result of another medical condition, the treatment is fairly simple, and is aimed at bringing iron levels to normal.
Taking iron supplements can also help. In severe conditions, blood transfusions and iron injections may be required. Many pregnant women are put on prophylactic iron supplements.
Low iron symptoms are common enough to warrant regular investigation, so as to ensure fitness and overall health. Following a healthy and balanced diet will go a long way in making sure one gets a fair share of each of the major food groups.
Pay attention to your body and the symptoms that manifest, to arrest a situation before it becomes a cause for concern. Follow a healthy lifestyle, and you will have no reason to develop an iron deficiency.
Disclaimer: This is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.