Fatigue, brain fog and dizziness are an indication of iron deficiency that affects many young women in the U.S. A recent study suggests a blood test to measure the body's iron reserves should be included in routine health checkups as 40% of American teenage girls and young women have low levels of iron.

The researchers from the University of Michigan Medical School evaluated data of girls and women between the ages of 12 and 21, collected over the last 20 years from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The findings of the study suggest that four out of every 10 teen girls and young women have low levels of iron, and 6% have levels so low that indicate iron-deficiency anemia, a condition when left untreated can cause life-limiting symptoms.

The current testing for iron deficiency is recommended for toddlers, pregnant women or people with a cluster of symptoms suggestive of anemia. However, researchers believe all young women should be screened for iron deficiency, and ferritin tests should be included as part of their routine health checkups.

"Iron deficiency is an under-recognized problem with adverse impacts, but its symptoms and even those of anemia are normalized in young females. Why are we not screening for a condition that is highly prevalent, easily diagnosed, easily treated, and associated with serious symptoms and increased risk of death if not addressed?" lead author Angela Weyand said.

The study indicated that menstruation was a risk factor that accelerates iron deficiency, although a quarter of the girls who have not started their periods also showed iron deficiency. In many cases, women may not routinely discuss menstrual bleeding with the healthcare provider and may not realize she has abnormal menstrual bleeding that can lead to anemia.

Researchers recommend including iron-rich food in diets and the use of supplements in people with low levels of iron in their blood. In case of serious deficiencies, intravenous supplementation of iron is also recommended.

Symptoms of iron deficiency:

  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss and brittle nails
  • Pale skin
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Poor appetite
  • Inflammation of tongue
  • Brain fog
  • Shortness of breath
  • Junk food cravings
  • Headache and dizziness
  • Sleep disorders