Iron Deficiency Without Anemia

What Is Iron Deficiency Without Anemia?

Iron deficiency is a common condition across the world. When iron deficiency becomes severe, it can lead to anemia which is a condition where your body does not have enough healthy red blood cells. You can, however, have iron deficiency without anemia. In such cases, your iron deficiency can be severe with a normal hemoglobin count. As a result, this condition can be difficult to diagnose.

Symptoms Of Iron Deficiency Without Anemia

The symptoms of iron deficiency and anemia do overlap. Some of the symptoms of iron deficiency without anemia fall into the same set as well. It is recommended that you speak to your healthcare practitioner if you experience any of the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Breathlessness
  • Brittle nails
  • Restless leg syndrome

A blood test can reveal if you have iron deficiency. If your blood test results show a normal hemoglobin count, then you do not have anemia. However, if any of the above symptoms persist, then you may have iron deficiency without anemia.

Certain groups of people are more prone to iron deficiency. Women of menstruating age, pregnant women, and athletes experience iron deficiency more than other groups. If you fall into any of these groups, it is important that you understand your iron needs.

Normal Iron Levels In Women

According to the Mayo Clinic, the normal iron levels in women and men are:

Women:  11.6 to 15 grams of hemoglobin per deciliter

Men: 13.2 to 16.6 grams of hemoglobin per deciliterThese iron levels are measured by counting the hemoglobin in your blood. There are other tests you family doctor may run to check your iron levels. These can include tests for ferritin, hematocrit, and red blood cells size and colour.

What Is Considered Low Iron

In women, hemoglobin levels below 12 grams of hemoglobin per deciliter is considered to be iron deficiency anemia. Foe men, this number is 13 grams.

As mentioned before, your doctor may perform different tests to diagnose any iron deficiency and its severity. One of these tests measures ferritin, which is a protein in your blood that contains iron.

The result of a ferritin test, which is the serum ferritin concentration, can be an indicator of iron deficiency. Generally the threshold for iron deficiency is less than 30 micrograms per liter. However, some labs may use 20 or even 10 micrograms per liter as the threshold.

Consequently, while there are thresholds for what is considered low iron, these thresholds may vary from one clinical lab to another. This is why it is important to discuss any test results with your doctor.

Iron Deficiency Without Anemia Treatment

If you have iron deficiency without anemia, one of the first treatment steps your doctor may recommend is improving your diet. Including iron-rich foods in your daily meals can help to increase your iron levels. There are many meats, fish, and vegetables that you can incorporate into your meals based on your dietary preferences.

Oral iron supplementation can help treat iron deficiency. There are two types of oral iron supplements: heme iron and non-heme iron ones. Your body absorbs heme iron through a dedicated heme iron receptor, ensuring it is absorbed more effectively. Once you start taking a heme iron supplement, monitor your symptoms for improvement. Your family doctor may ask for regular tests to check your iron levels.


Iron deficiency without anemia can be difficult to diagnose. This is because your blood tests may reveal normal levels of hemoglobin instead of low levels. If you experience the symptoms of iron deficiency, such as fatigue and dizziness, speak to your doctor. Tests can show if you are deficient in iron and your doctor may discern that you have iron deficiency without anemia. If you have iron deficiency anemia you can treat it with iron supplements.


National Library of Medicine: Non-anemic iron deficiency

National Library of Medicine: Iron deficiency without anemia – a clinical challenge

Royal College of Physicians:  Iron deficiency without anaemia: a diagnosis that matters

Open Access Text: Iron Deficiency Without Anemia – Common, Important, Neglected

GREM: Iron deficiency without anemia: indications for treatment

Mayo Clinic: Iron deficiency anemia

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