Iron deficiency and POTS, part 1

Iron deficiency puts the Fe in Feeling tired. OK, terrible joke, but iron might be really important for POTS patients. According to the National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute, iron deficiency anemia (IDA) occurs when iron stores get so low that the blood can't carry all the oxygen that it should from the lungs to the rest of the body[1]. It forces the heart to work harder, to make up for the lack of oxygen in the blood, and can cause:

  • fatigue,

  • dizzyness,

  • headache,

  • cold hands or feet,

  • irregular heart beats,

  • chest pain,

  • weakness, and

  • shortness of breath.

Wow, those sure look familiar! Given how much overlap there is with POTS symptoms, we couldn't help wondering if the two issues are somehow related.

For starters, we used the POTS Patient-Powered Survey to ask "Have you ever had iron deficiency anemia?" 423 POTS patients answered:

Yes, 210 No, 213

That makes a hair under 50% of POTS patients who report they've had IDA. Whoa! That intuitively felt high. We wondered how that compared to the normal rate of IDA in America or other westernized countries.

To find out, we looked up the prevalence rates of IDA in the average adult population. According to the CDC [2], the rate of IDA in America is:

  • 2% among American men,

  • 3% among non-pregnant women,

  • 9-12% among non-Hispanic white American women (combining pregnant and non-pregnant),

  • Up to 20% for African-American and Mexican-American women (combining pregnant and non-pregnant.)

Hmmmm...POTS patients report more IDA than all of these groups. It certainly makes us wonder if something is going on here!

In Iron Deficiency and POTS, part 2 we'll investigate some proposed explanations.

Please consider taking the POTS Patient-Powered Survey, because more data means we can do more sophisticated analyses and get more answers. You can read more about us or take the survey here.


  1. What are the signs and symptoms of iron deficiency anemia? National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute website Updated March 26, 2014. Accessed May 22, 2015.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Iron Deficiency--United States 1999-2000. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2002;51(40): 897-899.


iron deficiency anemia