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Can Low Iron Cause Headaches and Blurred Vision?

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An anemic young female is leaning on the wall due to a headache.

Iron is a mineral necessary for many bodily functions. If you don’t have enough iron in your body, it can cause iron deficiency anemia

When you lack certain nutrients, it can affect your body and eye health. Low iron can cause headaches and fatigue, but no evidence suggests it causes blurred vision.

If you’re experiencing headaches and blurry vision, visit your eye doctor for an eye exam to determine the underlying cause. 

What Is Iron Deficiency Anemia?

Iron deficiency anemia is a condition from a lack of iron in the body. Red blood cells contain hemoglobin, a substance that binds to oxygen and transports it throughout the body.

Without enough iron, the body can’t produce enough hemoglobin, leading to a shortage of oxygen in the body’s tissues. Causes of low iron can include:

  • Not getting enough iron in your diet
  • Loss of blood
  • Your body can’t absorb iron. This usually occurs through the small intestine, but an intestinal disorder can impact absorption from digested food. 
  • Pregnancy. Many pregnant women are iron deficient because of increased blood volume and the growing fetus.

Symptoms of Low Iron

If you have mild anemia or it develops over time, it can go unnoticed. Symptoms can also vary in severity, underlying causes, health, and age. 

Common symptoms of iron deficiency anemia include:

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Sensitivity to temperature
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Heart palpitations
  • Leg cramps

Physical signs can also indicate low iron, including:

  • Brittle nails
  • Cracks at the sides of the mouth
  • Hair loss
  • Inflammation of the tongue
  • Pale or yellow skin
  • Irregular heartbeat or breathing
A young girl with a key winder on her back sleeping on her laptop is lack of energy to continue her work.

Low Iron & Headaches

Low iron can cause the brain to receive less oxygen than needed for optimal functioning, leading to headaches. Iron deficiency anemia can also cause migraines, mostly in menstruating women. If you have frequent or recurrent headaches, it can be a symptom of iron deficiency anemia. 

Low Iron & Blurred Vision

There is no evidence that low iron causes blurred vision. However, low iron can cause retinal changes leading to anemic retinopathy

Eye symptoms of low iron can include a pale coloring of the inside of the lower eyelids. In moderate or severe cases of iron deficiency anemia, the inside layer of the lower eyelid is very pale pink or yellow instead of red. 

Rather than low iron, one common cause of blurry vision is dry eye. Dry eye is a condition where the eyes don’t produce enough tears or lack essential tear components to keep the eyes lubricated. 

Dry eyes can be uncomfortable and affect your quality of life. But you can find lasting relief with dry eye therapy

Eye Nutrition

In the same way that your body may need nutritional supplements to thrive, so does your ocular health. Foods rich in vitamins can lower the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, and dry eye later in life.

The eye doctors at Los Angeles EyeCare can help recommend nutrients based on your eye health, overall health, and family health history. The following antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins can protect your vision and keep you healthy:


Antioxidants delay or slow down oxidation, which causes aging or cell death. For people with cataracts, oxidation can change the fats and proteins in the eye’s lens, making them cloudy.

Foods high in antioxidants include:

  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Artichokes
  • Kale
  • Raspberries
  • Goji berries
  • Spinach
  • Beets

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat found in the membranes of the retina. They have anti-inflammatory properties and can help prevent diabetic retinopathy. It can also benefit those with dry eyes by helping to produce quality tears

Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids are:

  • Fish
  • Walnuts
  • Flaxseed
  • Chia Seeds


Zinc plays a vital role in maintaining normal ocular function. Zinc deficiency is associated with impaired vision, such as poor night vision and cataracts. 

Foods high in zinc include:

  • Legumes (beans and lentils)
  • Seeds
  • Meats & seafood
  • Dairy
  • Eggs

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is needed to make the collagen that provides structure to the eye. It’s also an antioxidant and may help prevent cataracts. 

The following foods are high in vitamin C:

  • Grapefruits
  • Oranges
  • Tomatoes
  • Green Peppers

Nutrition to Maintain Eye Health

You can do many things to support proper eye function and prevent eye diseases. Eating the right foods can contribute to healthy eyes and help improve overall health. If you believe you are deficient in iron, speak to your eye doctor before taking supplements. 

Taking the necessary nutrients and visiting your eye doctor for regular eye exams are 2 key steps in maintaining healthy, comfortable vision. Book an appointment with Los Angeles EyeCare to learn more about nutrition and eye health.

Written by Lynn Matsuda

Dr. Matsuda received her undergraduate degree from the University of California at Los Angeles, followed by her matriculation at the Southern California College of Optometry, where she graduated with distinction in 1990.
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