Iron deficiency occurs when the body does not have enough iron to carry out its tasks. It is a common condition that is more common in women than in men. Pregnant women may be at higher risk of iron deficiency and around 50% of women are iron deficient during pregnancy.
“There are many reasons for iron deficiency. The most common is lack of iron in the diet, others being that the body does not absorb enough iron from your diet and blood loss. Iron deficiency Iron causes several symptoms, the most obvious signs being weakness, higher than normal heart rate, pain in tongue, among others,” says Dr. Amit Bangia, Associate Director – Dermatology, Asian Hospital Faridabad.
Iron deficiency also affects your appearance. Dr. Bangia opens explains the important signs of iron deficiency in the skin, hair and nails.
1. Dry and damaged hair
It’s normal to lose a few strands of hair in a day, however, if you notice excess hair in your brush or on your pillow, it could be a sign that something is wrong. Dry, damaged hair can be a sign of iron deficiency. When your body lacks iron, it lowers the level of hemoglobin in your blood, which causes hair cells to receive less oxygen, which affects hair growth. When skin and hair don’t get enough oxygen, they become dry and weak.
2. Hair loss
Iron plays a vital role in the production of hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen to all parts of the body. When the body lacks iron, it becomes more difficult to transport oxygen to the cells that stimulate the growth of your nails and hair. It causes your hair to become thin and fall out. Research suggests that hair loss associated with iron deficiency may be a cause primarily in women of childbearing age.
Hair loss caused by iron deficiency resembles that of hormonal hair loss, which means you notice hair falling out around your hairline, crown, and middle of your head. With a severe iron deficiency, hair loss may worsen and you may notice more of your scalp when your hair is wet or when you are standing in a brightly lit area.
3. Abnormally pale skin
Blood gets its red color from the hemoglobin in red blood cells. So when the body lacks iron, it makes the blood less red and it makes the skin look paler than usual or lose its heat.
4. Paler inner eyelids
Normally, if you pull on the inside of the lower eyelids, it is bright red in color. However, if you are iron deficient, the insides of the lower eyelids turn pale. It is commonly seen in moderate or severe cases of iron deficiency. In fact, it’s one of the first things doctors will look for as a sign of iron deficiency. In dark-skinned people, this may be the only area where iron deficiency is noticeable.
5. Brittle nails
Brittle or spoon-shaped nails called koilonychia are a relatively less common symptom of iron deficiency. Usually it starts with brittle nails that crack and chip easily. In later stages, when iron deficiency persists for a long time without treatment, it can lead to spoon-shaped nails, which means they form a curve with a dip in the middle and the edges lift to give it a rounded spoon-shaped appearance. However, this is a rare symptom and is only seen in severe cases of iron deficiency.
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