Iron deficiency anaemia - Symptoms 

Symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia 

Many people with iron deficiency anaemia will only have a few signs or symptoms.

The severity of these symptoms largely depends on how quickly your anaemia develops. You may only notice few symptoms or they may develop gradually if your anaemia is caused by a long-term problem, such as a stomach ulcer.

The most common symptoms include:

Less common symptoms include:

  • headache 
  • tinnitus (hearing sounds coming from inside the body, rather than from an outside source)
  • an altered sense of taste
  • feeling itchy
  • a sore or abnormally smooth tongue
  • hair loss
  • a desire to eat non-food items, such as ice, paper or clay (a condition known as pica)
  • difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • painful ulcers (open sores) on the corners of your mouth
  • spoon-shaped nails

When to see your GP

If you experience symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia, see your GP. They can usually diagnose the condition with a simple blood test.

Read more about diagnosing iron deficiency anaemia.

Page last reviewed: 24/03/2014

Next review due: 24/03/2016


How helpful is this page?

Average rating

Based on 752 ratings

All ratings

Add your rating


The 4 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

CatherineELH said on 20 June 2014

I had miscarried 5 weeks ago and didn't feel too unwell at the time. However a few weeks later I started feeling really weak and shaky and had to go home from work. Following a blood test I was diagnosed with anaemia and prescribed iron tablets which I have been taking for a week now. I have had nearly 3 weeks off work and have had loads of rest. Some days I feel better than others, but I assumed I would be back to normal by now and yet at times I still feel very shaky and need to sit or lie down. I didn't realise that tinnitus, mouth sores, palpitations and itching were related and I have had all of these symptoms too. I'd be interested to know how long it takes to get energy back to normal or even functioning levels.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Tara Heywood said on 31 August 2013

I'm always tired/sleepy but I always blamed it on work or just being hot from the weather. I've suffered with headaches since I was a child and know how to handle them so I never thought about it. When I started to realise I was so tired all of the time, I told a friend and they told me it could be due to my iron, which reminded me that my mother has issues with her iron, especially when she was pregnant. I did also think about diabetes because my grandmother suffers from it and I thought it could've passed on. I wasn't very worried at the time, until yesterday when I fainted on the train on the way to a friend's house (where I did not go unconscious but I did lose sense of hearing and sight and eventually couldn't stand). I am also on a contraceptive pill called Levest and I thought maybe this could contribute to the tiredness. I am making a doctors appointment anyway, but was wondering what the first thoughts could be.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

corralie said on 13 May 2013

@RueMellark: I don't know whether or not you have anaemia but please do go to your GP about the ringing noise in your ear. Its important to check things like that in case there's a risk to your hearing in the long term.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

RueMellark said on 06 February 2013

I think I have anemia...
I have a ringing noise in my ear that come and go and I used to think maybe I put my headphones on too loud but I don't really. And my teacher said I might have it because I was chewing in class and she asked me what was it and I said paper. Miss said that I might be anaemic if I eat paper. I didn't believe her so I went on Google. Also, I always tend to eat ice cubes when I drink coke in McDonalds. I learnt my lesson and that's, science teachers know their stuff.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Symptom checker

If you have a health problem, our symptom checker can help you manage it or find out where to go for help