Iron is an important mineral for healthy red blood cells. Without enough iron, you have a higher risk of developing anemia. However, it’s also possible to have an iron deficiency without anemia.
Iron deficiency is the
Iron is a mineral that your body needs to make healthy red blood cells. Without enough iron, your body can’t make enough red blood cells.
It’s also possible to have an iron deficiency without anemia, though it may progress to anemia. One study estimates that iron deficiency without anemia is actually
Iron deficiency with and without anemia are preventable and treatable conditions. This article will take a closer look at the signs and symptoms of iron deficiency without anemia, who is at risk, and how it’s treated.
An iron deficiency can cause some of the same symptoms as iron-deficiency anemia. The only way to know for sure is through blood work.
Common symptoms of iron deficiency include:
- difficulty concentrating or focusing
- feeling tired or lethargic
- changes in
- feeling weak, especially when doing an activity
It’s a good idea to talk with your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms. They can order blood work to find out more. Blood tests will measure your iron levels and may also be able to determine if low iron levels have caused iron-deficiency anemia.
It may take
Iron deficiency has different causes. Sometimes it’s a combination of factors.
Common causes of iron deficiency include:
- low iron intake from food or supplements
- increased iron needs
- poor iron absorption
Some people are at greater risk of developing iron deficiency. This includes people who:
- eat a vegetarian or vegan diet
- are pregnant
- are children or teenagers and need extra iron for growth
- have had gastric bypass surgery
- have active inflammatory bowel disease or celiac disease
- have changes in their stomach acid from using proton pump inhibitors or from a H. pylori infection
- menstruate, especially those who have heavy periods
- have blood loss due to internal bleeding or surgery
About ferritin and hemoglobin
Ferritin levels also play a role in iron deficiency. Ferritin is a storage form of iron. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines low iron as a ferritin level below
Hemoglobin can also be affected by iron levels. Hemoglobin is a part of the red blood cell that carries oxygen. Your body needs iron to make hemoglobin. When hemoglobin levels are low, it means that your red blood cell levels are also low.
Iron deficiency without anemia may be
How much iron do you need each day?
Anyone who menstruates needs more iron due to monthly blood loss.
People ages 19–50 who menstruate need
Some of the best sources of iron include:
- iron-fortified breakfast cereal
- pumpkin seeds
Blood work is the best way for iron deficiency to be diagnosed, with or without anemia.
The main blood tests that are used include ferritin and hemoglobin. Other tests might be done at the same time to find out more about the health of your red blood cells.
If your ferritin is low, but your hemoglobin is normal, you may have iron deficiency without anemia. If your hemoglobin level is also low, it means your red blood cell count is low. This may be diagnosed as iron-deficiency anemia.
The first-line treatment for iron deficiency is usually
Iron infusions are another option, but this is typically only done in more severe cases of iron-deficiency anemia.
Increasing iron intake from food may help, but this is most effective in nonsymptomatic people who don’t have any absorption issues. In many instances, dietary changes alone isn’t enough to raise iron levels into the normal range.
You’ll likely need to have follow-up blood work done within
If iron deficiency is not treated, the amount of iron in your body may continue to drop. Over time, this may affect your body’s ability to make red blood cells which could, ultimately, cause anemia.
An iron deficiency is when the levels of iron in your body are low. Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anemia, but an iron deficiency can also occur without anemia. Blood work is the only way to know for sure.
Iron deficiency with and without anemia are both treatable conditions. Many people may be able to normalize their levels within a few months with the right treatment.