Symptoms of Anemia: 7 Signs You Should Not Ignore

People argue back and forth about the need to take this vitamin or that supplement, making it pretty confusing for most of us to know if we’re getting all the nutrients we need. In many cases, we consume plenty of these vital building blocks through regular food, but not always.

One fairly common deficiency is anemia, a condition characterized by lack of red blood cells. According to Mayo Clinic, these are the cells responsible for delivering oxygen to the body’s tissues. When our diets lack foods rich in folate, iron, and vitamin B12, our bodies can’t keep production levels up, resulting in anemia. Initial symptoms include headache and chest pain, but if left untreated, the condition can result in pregnancy complications and even heart failure. If you experience any of these seven signs, you could be anemic.

1. Unusual cravings, like dirt and ice

Pile of dirt

If you are particularly drawn to ice, it may be a sign of anemia. | iStock.com

Although no one knows why this happens, the desire for non-food substances is a common symptom of anemia. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) says this is called pica. Other strange cravings include chalk, cardboard, and paper, but the most common desire is wanting to chew ice.

2. Deformed nails

Man clipping his finger nails

That weird looking nail may not be such a laughing matter. | iStock.com

If you notice your nails changing shape, it may be koilonychia, a condition that can result from iron deficiency. The University of Maryland Medical Center says you’ll notice nails that curve inward and are raised at the edges. Nails also tend to become thinner. This could be a sign of a simple iron deficiency, but The Permanente Journal says it could also signal malnutrition, gastrointestinal blood loss, or celiac disease, so it’s important to contact your doctor as soon as possible if you notice this symptom.

3. Tingling sensation in the hands and feet

Man experiencing pain in hands

Hands and feet a little tingly? | iStock.com

If you notice a pins-and-needles feeling in your hands and feet, you could be anemic. According to NHLBI, this can be the result of nerve damage caused by anemia resulting from a vitamin B12 deficiency. You may also experience numbness, weakened muscles, and loss of reflexes. It’s important to make sure your vitamin B12 intake is sufficient, because it may eventually lead to bone fractures.

4. Restless leg syndrome

Woman's legs in jeans

Can’t keep still? | iStock.com/AnSyvanych

If you have a consistent and irresistible urge to move your legs, anemia could be causing restless leg syndrome (RLS). John Hopkins School of Medicine says iron deficiency is the most common cause of RLS. The article mentions the professor who first discovered the association noticed both improvement when treating the iron deficiency among patients.

5. Cracks around the corners of your lips

woman applying lip moisturizer

If your lips are constantly cracked that could be a sign. | iStock.com/petrunjela

While we often credit chapped lips to the change in weather or the need for lip balm, it can actually signal a deficiency. Cracks that appear on the corners of your lips indicate a condition called angular cheilitis. A study involving 82 people with the condition found 35% of them lacked sufficient iron. If your common lip balm method doesn’t seem to be helping, you may need to visit your doctor.

6. Extreme fatigue

man sleeping on office desk

If you just can’t seem to get up you may be anemic. | iStock.com

Excessive exhaustion is a common symptom for many conditions, including anemia, according to Mayo Clinic. Since anemia affects the blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body, it’s no wonder fatigue is likely. Your body is basically screaming for more oxygen. If your constantly wiped, you could be anemic.

7. Pale skin and puffy eyes

tired man

The yellowing of your skin is a sign of anemia. | iStock.com

If you notice your skin becoming pale or changing to a shade of yellow, it’s a definite indicator something’s not right. Livestrong says it’s likely anemia if accompanied by dark under-eye circles or puffy eyes. If you notice this change along with any of the signs mentioned earlier, it’s important to consult your doctor to find out what your diet may be lacking. The sooner you figure it out, the sooner you’ll be able to pursue a treatment plan that helps you feel more like yourself.