Ironing out the problem
Do you sometimes feel listless? Are you often tired, forgetful or lacking in concentration? These can sometimes be symptoms of iron-deficiency anaemia.
Iron-deficiency anaemia has a prevalence of 2% to 5% amongst adult men and post-menopausal women in the developed world1. If you’re a premenopausal woman the risk of irondeficiency anaemia is even greater, as 5% to 12% of otherwise healthy premenopausal women suffer from iron deficiency anaemia2; therefore it makes sense to look at identifying and easing this condition.
If your body does not get enough iron, you will notice it pretty quickly. Even a slight deficiency can have visible signs, including brittle hair and nails, dry skin and cracking at the corners of the mouth. Although these signs can appear for other reasons, iron deficiency is the most common cause.
The reason that it is mainly women who suffer from an iron deficiency is that they regularly lose blood, and therefore iron, during menstruation.
However, many older people eat less, and therefore consume fewer vital substances like iron. In addition to this, iron is not transported from the gut throughout the body so easily as the years advance, as the digestive glands don’t work so well. Iron is often taken up very poorly by the body of the older person, due to a lack of stomach acid. This may lead to a deficiency, which in turn causes tiredness and a drop-off in physical and mental performance3.
- Fatigue and listlessness
- Thinning hair
- Grooved nails
- Poor concentration
- Shortness of breath and palpitations
- Irregular heartbeat
- Light-headedness, feeling dizzy or giddy
- Cracks in the corners of the mouth
- Craving unusual foods
- Difficulty swallowing
- Noises in the ear
- Concave nails
- Cold hands and feet
- Sore tongue
1. World Health Organisation. Iron-deficiency anaemia. Assessment, detection and control. A Guide for Programme Managers, 2001.
2. World Health Organisation. The prevention of anaemia in women: a tabulation of available information, 2nd Ed. Geneva: WHO 1992. Looker AC et al. JAMA 1997; 277: 973-6
3. Izaks GJ, Westendorp RGJ, Knook DL. The definition of anemia in older persons. JAMA. 1999;281:1714-1717.