Complications of iron deficiency anaemia

Iron deficiency anaemia rarely causesserious or long-term complications, although some people with the condition findit affects their daily life.

Somecommon complications are outlined below.


Iron deficiency anaemia can make you feel tired and lacking in energy (lethargic). This may result in you being less productive at work, andyou may find it difficult to stay awakeornot feel able to exercise regularly.

Increased risk of infections

Research has showniron deficiency anaemia can affect your immune system the body's natural defence system. This increases your vulnerability to infection.

Heart and lung problems

Adults with severe anaemia may be at risk of developing complications that affect their heart or lungs.

For example, you may develop SVT (supraventricular tachycardia) , which isan abnormally fast heartbeat,or heart failure , where the heart fails to pump enough blood around your body at the right pressure.

Pregnancy complications

Pregnant women with severe anaemia have an increased risk of developing complications, particularly during and after birth.

They may also develop postnatal depression , which some women experience after having a baby.

Research suggests babies born to mothers who have untreated anaemia are more likely to:

  • be born prematurelybefore the 37th week of pregnancy
  • have a low birth weight
  • have problems withiron levels themselves
  • do less well in mental ability tests

Restless legs syndrome

Some cases of restless legs syndrome are thought to be caused by iron deficiency anaemia. Doctors often refer to this as secondary restless legs syndrome.

Restless legs syndromeis a common condition that affects the nervous system, andcauses an overwhelming, irresistible urge to move the legs. It also causes an unpleasant feeling in the feet, calves and thighs.

Restless legs syndrome caused by iron deficiency anaemiacan usually be treated with iron supplements.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 30 Nov 2016