ANAEMIA is quite common in Jamaican women; in fact, many of us suffer from low iron levels, and may ignore the symptoms, because they're not often grave. And often, it's a visit to the doctor for one or several of these symptoms that usually diagnoses low iron levels, for which there is effective treatment.
Low iron levels, also known as iron deficiency, can manifest through various signs in women, said Registered Nurse Ingrid Sutton. She said some common signs include:
Fatigue and pale skin
Feeling unusually tired, weak, or exhausted, even with adequate rest. You may also have a paler complexion, particularly noticeable in the face, lips, and inside the lower eyelids.
Shortness of breath and weakness
Difficulty breathing or feeling out of breath, especially during physical activity. It can also cause generalised weakness or reduced physical strength.
Cold hands and feet and brittle nails
Experiencing cold extremities even in warm conditions. Also, nails becoming fragile, brittle, or developing ridges.
Frequent headaches or migraines may be indicative of low iron levels.
Reduced exercise tolerance
Feeling fatigued quickly during exercise or physical activities.
Restless legs syndrome
Uncomfortable sensations in the legs and an urge to move them, often worsened at night.
Finding it hard to focus or concentrate on tasks.
Craving non-food items like ice, clay, or dirt (a condition called pica).
Increased heart rate
The heart may need to work harder to pump oxygen-rich blood to compensate for the decreased oxygen-carrying capacity.
Low iron levels can weaken the immune system, making you more susceptible to infections.
Some individuals with iron deficiency may experience digestive problems, such as a sore or inflamed tongue and difficulty swallowing.
"If you suspect you have low iron levels, it's essential to consult a health-care professional," Sutton said. "We can perform blood tests to diagnose iron deficiency and provide appropriate guidance and treatment options, which may include dietary changes, iron supplements, or other interventions."