Iron Deficiency In Teenage Females: Its Causes And Symptoms

Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in teenage girls all over the world. It is the primary cause of anemia worldwide. You may observe teenage girls often feeling fatigued and tired for reasons such as late night studies doing homework or studying for exams or managing school and job at the same time. Tiredness and fatigue may be actually due to iron deficiency anemia but the condition is overlooked because the signs and symptoms of this condition are often subtle.

Iron deficiency in adolescence females occurs due to several reasons.

Profuse blood loss during menstruation, inadequate intake of iron containing food or malabsorption of iron from the intestine are the three main reasons for iron deficiency. Management of iron deficiency in teenage females needs proper regulation of menses, adequate intake of dietary iron and in case of anemia, iron supplementation.

What Causes Iron Deficiency In Teenage Females?

Teenage is a period of rapid physical, emotional and intellectual growth. It is a period of transformation from childhood to maturation. Teenage period spans for five to six years. But maximum rapid growth occurs in 18 to 24 months between these years.

This period is referred as growth spurt. For supporting this growth spurt a teenager needs extra calories, calcium and iron along with protein.

The body composition and mass also changes during this period. It is the period when girls attain puberty and start menstruating. Teenage females require increased amount of iron as some of it is lost in their monthly cycle. Below are the following causes mainly responsible for iron deficiency in teenage girls:

  • Rapid growth during teenage period increases demand for nutrition, which includes iron among other nutrients. Iron plays important role in physical development in teens. If teenagers do not eat proper food consisting iron, it may lead to iron deficiency.
  • Excess loss of blood in menstruation. During teenage many girls are passing through the phase of hormonal imbalance. As a result this may cause excess of bleeding in some girls. It means excess loss of iron from the body.
  • Iron deficiency also occurs if the intestine is not able to absorb iron. This may occur due to several reasons such as hookworm infection, low intake of vitamin C etc. Wheat bread contains too much of phytates and tea contains tannin. Phytates and tannins are known to inhibit iron absorption from intestine.

Symptoms Of Iron Deficiency In Teenage Females

In majority of teenage females the signs and symptoms of iron deficiency are subtle. It is because depletion of iron is slow. The symptoms may be apparent only after substantial amount of iron is depleted in them. Following are the symptoms of iron deficiency in teenage girls:

  • Tiredness and fatigue after mild physical activity.
  • Pale skin and tongue.
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased irritation on trivial matters.
  • Pica or craving for non food items such as chalk, pencil, mud, paint etc. Such girls are known also have increased desire to eat raw ice.

Treatment For Iron Deficiency In Teenage Females

In majority of cases iron deficiency anemia is detected clinically, from medical history as well as with certain blood tests. The teenage girl suspected of iron deficiency has to undergo following tests such as complete blood count, serum ferritin level, reticulocyte count, etc. Stool test is also required to detect if there is blood loss from intestine or from stomach.

Iron deficiency in teenage girls can occur due to many reasons. Thus it is necessary to find the exact cause. Once the cause is known, it becomes easier to start the treatment. For example if the cause is profuse blood loss in menstruation, measures should be taken to regulate menses. At the same time additional supplementation is also necessary by the way of fortified food products and iron capsules.

If the underlying cause is insufficient intake of iron containing food, change in dietary regimen is helpful to increase the iron store in body. Teenage girls should be encouraged to eat diversified iron rich food. They also need to be educated to eat fruits that contain vitamin C as it increases iron absorption from stomach.