iron-deficiency, anemia, causes, treatment, symptoms, women, healthIron-deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia. Anemia is when your body’s red blood cells don’t work correctly, or your body doesn’t have enough red blood cells. Iron helps bring oxygen to the rest of your body.

More women than men are affected by iron-deficiency anemia. The iron-deficiency anemia increases for pregnant women, and one in six pregnant women develop it. While women of childbearing age need 18 mg of iron per day, pregnant women need 27 mg per day of iron to support the baby’s development, according to the Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board.

Iron-deficiency anemia also affects women who have heavy menstrual periods. Almost 5% of women develop this kind of anemia due to heavy bleeding during their periods.

What are the Symptoms?

When a woman first develops iron-deficiency anemia, the symptoms will be very mild. She may only experience one or two of the symptoms. Over time, as the iron levels decrease, the symptoms worsen. Women with iron deficiencies most often experience fatigue and weakness. As the iron levels continue to decrease, they may also experience dizziness, headaches, pale skin, rapid heartbeat, and shortness of breath. Some women develop pica, which is an unusual craving for non-food items such as dirt or paper.

If you think you may have iron-deficiency anemia, talk to your doctor or nurse.

What is the Treatment for It?

Treatment for iron-deficiency anemia depends on the cause:

  • If your heavy menstrual periods are making you anemic, your doctor may give you hormonal birth control to help lighten your periods.
  • If you have problems absorbing iron, your doctor may recommend iron pills. Don’t take iron pills without first discussing it with your health care provider. Iron pills can cause stomach aches, diarrhea, or constipation.

Doctors could also recommend eating more foods that contain iron. Excellent sources of iron include fortified breakfast cereals (18 mg per serving), canned white beans, (8 mg per cup), dark chocolate (7 mg per 3-ounces). In general, meat, eggs, beans, spinach, potatoes, and fortified foods are good sources of iron. Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron. Good sources of vitamin C include oranges, broccoli, and tomatoes.

How much Iron do Women who are Vegetarians need?

The body absorbs iron better from meat than from plants, so vegetarians need more iron from food than people who eat meat. Vegetarian women need 32 mg of iron per day, compared to the recommended 18 mg for non-vegetarians.

If left untreated, iron-deficiency anemia can cause serious health problems. Having too little oxygen in the body can damage organs, especially your heart. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, contact Creekside Center to set up an appointment.