Iron Deficiency - Symptoms

What are the symptoms of iron deficiency?

The symptoms of iron deficiency may be very vague, particularly if isn't bad enough to have caused you to have developed iron-deficiency anaemia as well.

Some common symptoms are:

  • Tiredness.
  • Struggling to concentrate at work or college.
  • Memory problems.
  • Reduced ability to exercise.
  • Hair losing its condition, and possibly hair loss.
  • Nails becoming brittle and breaking or splitting easily. They may even change shape, becoming concave or spoon-shaped, or may develop ridges.
  • Cuts and grazes taking a long time to heal.
  • A sore tongue.
  • Sores at the corners of your mouth.
  • Restless legs syndrome.
  • Infants with iron deficiency may not develop as quickly as normal.
  • Pica syndrome: the craving or eating of substances not normally eaten, such as clay, chalk or coal.

When should I see a doctor?

Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world.

If you have had one or more of the symptoms listed above, for more than a few weeks, you should arrange to see a doctor or nurse. You can then have investigations carried out, which will include looking to see if iron deficiency is causing your symptoms. If you are short of iron, it is important to get medical advice. This is not just to confirm that iron deficiency is the cause of your symptoms; it is also to find out why you are short of iron, as the cause can be serious.

Many of the symptoms of iron deficiency are also the symptoms of the busy, and sometimes stressful, lives we live. Tiredness and struggling to focus at work, for example, are very common and not usually due to iron deficiency. They usually just get better on their own after a week or two - or after a good holiday!

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Dr Jacqueline Payne
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Hannah Gronow
Document ID:
29400 (v1)
Last Checked:
26 May 2017
Next Review:
26 June 2020

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.