Anemia is a condition that describes a low red blood cell count. This can be caused by either low B12 or low iron, but the most common form is iron deficiency.
Iron is a mineral that we get from our diet and which has a wide range of different important roles in the body. Among these, one of the most crucial is that it is used in the formation of red blood cells. And those that remember their high school biology should know that the red blood cells are the cells that carry oxygen around the circulatory system from the heart to the muscles, organs, brain, and lungs. What you may be less aware of, is the fact that they also carry other things – including important nutrients.
As you’re probably rather aware, we need oxygen rather crucially. When this starts running low, you notice a range of different ill effects – whether that’s because you’re holding your breath, or because you’re struggling with anemia.
Either way, we’ll take a look at some of the most common symptoms here.
The number one symptom you will likely notice when your iron count is low is fatigue. This is simply a sign that you aren’t getting enough oxygen around your body where it is needed, which in turn reduces your ability to create and use energy.
This might feel like general fatigue – as though all your usual activities feel that much more difficult. Note however that there are a vast number of different conditions that are all capable of causing fatigue. This can likewise be a symptom of chronic fatigue syndrome, adrenal fatigue, or of depression.
Still, add anemia to your list of possible causes and make sure to look for the other symptoms on this list if you do experience it!
Blood’s main role is to carry energy and nutrients around the body, like a delivery system that is reliant on the superhighway that is your vascular system.
But while this is true, it’s also true that your blood has a range of other effects on your body. That includes giving you a little bit of color as your blood can be seen somewhat through your skin. Therefore, when you have anemia, it is particularly common to notice that your skin looks a little paler than normal.
Again, this can be a symptom of many things. And generally, when we are ill, we might report that we look a little ‘peaky’. Still, this is definitely one to look out for.
3. Paleness in Specific Places
It can be a bit of a challenge to spot paler skin depending no your regular complexion and depending on how noticeable the change is. Fortunately, there are some specific areas where the change might be more noticeable.
One example is around the fingernails. Another is just below the eye if you pull the eyelid at the bottom down and look at the color of the inside of the lid. Here the skin is thinner and as such, it is often easier to spot just how pale you have become and how little the blood is contributing to your overall complexion.
4. Heavy Periods
This isn’t so much a symptom as it is a cause, but if you’re looking for evidence as to what might be going wrong, then heavy periods could be something important to look out for.
That’s because women who experience very heavy periods are of course going to lose a lot of blood when they do. If this keeps happening to a large extent every month, then eventually the body can struggle to ‘bounce back’, resulting in an iron deficiency and many of the issues we see here.
That’s why women who do experience very heavy periods are often recommended to use an iron supplement, to counteract those effects somewhat.
5. Coldness in Extremities
Another job of blood is to keep you warm. If you have poor circulation, the often this will result in the hands and feet becoming cold as blood fails to reach them. This is more common as we get older too, which is one reason that grandparents always feel so cold!
But if you have anemia, the precise same thing can happen. Blood isn’t gathering at the fingertips and elsewhere and as such, it can start to become cold or at least feel colder from your perspective.
6. Difficulty Catching Your Breath
If you walk up a flight of stairs and then find yourself doubled over panting, then you might be excused for thinking you just need to spend more time at the gym. Indeed, this may well be the case. However, it’s also very possible that you’re actually experiencing shortness of breath as a result of low anemia.
That means low red blood cell count and that in turn means a somewhat impaired supply of oxygen. You’re not really out of breath, but because you need iron to carry the oxygen to your cells, you feel as though you are.
7. Irregular Heartbeat
How do you think your body responds to low oxygen and red blood cells? It ramps up performance to try and get them to you in time. That means your heart rate can increase as it works extra hard to deliver blood where it is needed.
This can also just result in an irregular heartbeat and may cause a range of other complications. For those with existent heart problems, this can exacerbate those issues and result in a higher risk of heart attack, stroke, or other problems.
RLS is an acronym that stands for ‘restless leg syndrome’. This is a condition that many of us will have experienced or seen, but which many of us don’t recognize as a particular problem. RLS causes our legs to bob up and down uncontrollably and even to get faster as we become more restless or potentially as we become stressed.
Research shows that roughly 15% of people who experience RLS actually have an underlying iron deficiency and that this might be the cause for many of them. Note that the two are not always linked according to this research however and actually, there are many more potential explanations. For instance, it is thought that RLS may be linked to ADHD and also low levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine.
What happens when you stop supplying blood and oxygen to the brain in the correct quantities? Simple: the brain begins to suffer potentially resulting in headaches and difficulty focusing.
Again, there are many different potential causes of headaches. But if you experience these frequently along with other symptoms mentioned on this list, then you might want to consider iron deficiency as a potential explanation.
Our emotions and our physiology are closely linked. That is to say that what affects our body will ultimately impact on our mood. If you’re angry and the world seems like a harsh, unfair place, then it might well be because you are overly hungry or because you’re overly tired!
And likewise, if you have low oxygen, then your body will read this as ‘something being wrong’. As such, you may feel anxious or worried for seemingly no reason. Again, there are lots of causes for this though.