An iron deficiency is the No. 1 nutritional disorder in the world, and teenagers are at a particular risk for developing it. During adolescence, teens may experience rapid growth spurts, increasing their needs for iron and other nutrients, and if these needs are not met, they can develop a vitamin or mineral deficiency. While an iron deficiency is more common among teenage females due to menstruation, male teens can develop it as well.
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If a male teenager develops an iron deficiency, it is probably because he is growing quickly and not making the necessary adjustments to his diet to increase his iron intake. However, certain factors can contribute to this nutritional disorder or make it more likely to occur. If you participate in long-distance running, this can put you at a risk for low iron levels. You are also at a greater risk if you are a strict vegetarian, on a weight-loss diet or have inconsistent eating habits; the latter can also increase your chances of developing other nutritional deficiencies.
Signs and Symptoms
The most-common signs and symptoms of an iron deficiency are fatigue or a lack of energy, shortness of breath, headaches, dizziness and irritability. You may also experience unintentional weight loss, feelings of weakness and be more susceptible to infections and illnesses. Your performance in school and on your homework may suffer due to exhaustion and a decreased ability to concentrate or remember things. If you believe you may be deficient in iron, make an appointment to see your doctor, and tell him the symptoms you have been experiencing.
If your iron deficiency remains undiagnosed, it can become severe, and you may then develop iron-deficiency anemia. This is the most-common form of anemia, and its most common cause is an iron-poor diet. Iron-deficiency anemia has similar signs and symptoms to an iron deficiency, but you may also experience blood in your stools, brittle nails, a decreased appetite, pale skin, a sore tongue or strange food cravings. The whites of your eyes may also become pale or look bluish in color. It is imperative to seek medical attention if you suspect you have an iron deficiency or iron-deficiency anemia, since a prolonged nutritional disorder may affect your growth and development.
Prevention and Additional Considerations
You can prevent an iron deficiency by including many iron-rich foods in your diet. Choose from items like lean meat, spinach, raisins, dried beans, molasses, salmon, tuna, whole-grain breads and chicken. If you eat plant-based sources of iron, consume vitamin C along with them to increase iron absorption. Male teens between the ages of 14 and 18 need 11 milligrams of iron a day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Always talk to your doctor before making changes to your diet or taking new supplements.