Iron Deficiency and Depression - What Is the Connection?

Iron Deficiency and Depression Introduction:

Iron deficiency can affect the mind. In addition to poor concentration, iron deficiency anemia can also lead to depressive symptoms. By compensating for the missing iron as part of a drug therapy, the depressive symptoms can show themselves to regress and the mood can brighten again.

Read more on the topic: Depression symptoms and iron deficiency test

What connection is there?

The iron is involved in the production of various messenger substances in the brain, which among other things also influence the mood.

Read more on the topic: Iron in the human body

A particularly important hormone in this context is the serotonin - also known as the happiness hormone. Like the other hormones, serotonin is also dependent on iron in order to be properly formed by the body. If the body lacks iron or if the iron stores are too low, depressive moods can arise. These can include exhaustion, listlessness, or sadness.

Read more on the topic: The role of serotonin in depression

If the patient has a depressive symptom, they should try to get a blood count - in other words, have a blood test carried out by a doctor, which shows the iron content of the body in terms of values. The doctor can use the blood values ​​to determine whether there is an iron deficiency. If the iron content in the body is too low, it can then be treated with special iron preparations. If the depressive symptoms are connected with the iron deficiency, the symptoms can show themselves to regress over time through therapy.


The diagnosis of iron deficiency anemia is comparatively simple. Blood is drawn from those affected and the levels of red blood cells and stored iron are determined. The red blood cells too Erythrocytes are mentioned with an iron deficiency and the hemoglobin, the red dye, occurs in lower concentration. The physician speaks of one in this context microcytic hypochromic anemia. The total number of red blood cells is also reduced. To determine the iron content, the iron storage protein is primarily used Ferritin looked. This is more sensitive than the iron value and is therefore used as a benchmark for the iron content. Ferritin is typically decreased in iron deficiency anemia. The doctor can diagnose iron deficiency anemia based on the blood values ​​with the above changes.

Read more on the topic: Symptoms of anemia

Other accompanying symptoms

Iron deficiency anemia can cause a variety of symptoms. In addition to a possible depressive mood, these include a lack of concentration and learning difficulties. Often there is also severe tiredness and exhaustion in iron deficiency anemia.

Furthermore, it can lead to sleep disorders and possibly a rest-leg-leg syndrome, which is an urge to move in the legs, which occurs mainly at night or when resting. Those affected can appear very pale as part of anemia and the hair and nails can appear brittle and brittle. The skin at the corner of the mouth can tear, this phenomenon is called Angular rhinitis designated. The tongue, like the skin, can appear pale. In addition, tissue shrinkage of the tongue, a so-called atrophy come.

Read more on the topic: Torn corners of the mouth - causes and tips for treatment and brittle fingernails - what's behind it?

Furthermore, those affected may suffer from shortness of breath, which occurs particularly during exercise. In the worst case, severe iron deficiency anemia can lead to shortness of breath. The heart rate can be increased in the context of iron deficiency anemia - that is, the heart beats faster than usual. This is known in medicine as Tachycardia.

Treatment / therapy

To replenish the iron store, those affected can consume foods with a particularly high proportion of iron. These include veal liver, black pudding and beef, among others. Plant foods that are particularly high in iron include wheat bran, whole grain bread and beans, as well as lentils.

Read more on the topic: Foods with iron

If the iron deficiency has progressed further, drug treatment may be necessary. The treatment then takes place with the administration of iron supplements. These are available as tablets, capsules or drops in pharmacies. The medication with iron tablets should only be used if the doctor actually found iron deficiency anemia through a blood test. An unnecessary intake of iron can lead to undesirable side effects and should therefore be avoided.

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In iron deficiency anemia, it is best to take it some time before eating, as this allows the body to better absorb iron. If iron tablets are intolerant or the body has problems with absorption, iron can also be administered intravenously - that is, it is given through an access into the vein. The intravenous administration of iron has a higher risk of causing severe side effects - therefore it is only used when administration of medication is not possible for the reasons mentioned above.

Duration / forecast

The duration of iron deficiency anemia with associated depression usually depends on the start of therapy. Iron supplements can usually replenish the iron content in the body. For iron deficiency anemia that can be treated with medication, a treatment of approx. 3-6 months is recommended. As a rule, blood tests are carried out to check whether the iron levels rise and the red blood cells can be reproduced properly again.

In the course of the therapy, the iron deficiency and the depressive mood should then decrease. Of course, the duration of iron deficiency anemia also depends on the cause. So that the iron deficiency anemia can be eliminated, the cause must also be treated. However, the prognosis is often good - after a regular iron therapy, those affected are largely improved in their mood.

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Course of disease

Iron deficiency, which leads to depression and if left untreated, can lead to a deterioration in mood. The mood of those affected can therefore continue to deteriorate. In addition, the iron deficiency can lead to further symptoms, which also increase without therapy. For example, severe iron deficiency anemia can lead to shortness of breath or hair loss. The physical symptoms usually contribute to the fact that those affected feel even “worse”.

With a regular therapy with iron supplements, the mood brightens up again in the best case. This can take a few weeks to months as the iron stores have to fill up again.

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