Causes and Symptoms of Anemia in Women

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Anemia is a common blood disorder characterized by a deficiency of red blood cells or hemoglobin. It is the most common disorder of the blood and can occur at any age and affect every gender. However, the groups at higher risk for anemia are women, the elderly, and people with chronic illnesses. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute reports that anemia affects more than 3 million Americans and is the most common blood condition in the U.S. Anemia can be mild, moderate, or severe and can be a result of many different things such as not producing enough red blood cells, losing red blood cells faster than they can be produced, or simply destroying them. No matter the cause, if anemia is left untreated, it can lead to serious physical and mental complications and can have a negative impact on daily life. For example, anemia can contribute to worsened symptoms of heart problems, cognitive and emotional complications and compromised injuries and illnesses can exacerbate anemia’s negative impact on the body. For example, a stomach ulcer could lead to anemia as a result of continued blood loss, while many infections can trigger the body’s immune response that produces leukocytes at a faster rate and can further diminish the red blood cells needed. Women are at a higher risk for developing anemia due to the loss of the mineral iron and the blood during menstrual periods and the increased blood supply demands during pregnancy. Research has shown that 1 in 5 women and half of all pregnant women will be affected by iron-deficiency anemia. It is important to get anemia diagnosed and on-set quickly to prevent these potential deteriorations in the body.

Definition of Anemia

Anemia is a disease in which the number of red blood cells in the blood is less than normal or the hemoglobin is low. Hemoglobin is a main part of red blood cells and binds oxygen. If you have too few or abnormal red blood cells, or your hemoglobin is abnormal or low, the cells in your body will not get enough oxygen. It is the oxygen level in the blood that determines the severity of the anemia and how the patient feels as a result. Although there are more than 400 specific types of anemia, the following are three main groups of anemia based on the cause of the anemia. First, anemia caused by blood loss, second, anemia caused by decreased or faulty red blood cell production and third, anemia caused by destruction of red blood cells. The signs and symptoms of anemia vary according to the type of anemia, the underlying cause, the severity and duration of the anemia and so on. Because many conditions and diseases can cause anemia, your doctor will need to do a thorough examination. However, if the reason for your anemia is primarily a lower than normal amount of hemoglobin, then the appearance of your red blood cells under a microscope will be an important diagnostic tool. The doctor may recommend additional tests to determine the underlying cause. This may include a fecal occult blood test, a bone marrow biopsy, a test for hemolysis and so on. Hemolysis test can help the doctor know whether the anemia is occurring because of red blood cells being destroyed prematurely. In this test, several blood tests are done to measure the rate and extent of red blood cell destruction.

Prevalence in Women

It has been estimated that over 25% of the world’s population is affected by anemia, making it the most common blood disorder on a global scale. However, the prevalence of anemia is even higher in specific subgroups of the population, including women of reproductive age. According to the American Society of Hematology, anemia affects one in four women, and a disproportionate number of women in their reproductive years suffer from anemia in comparison to men and postmenopausal women. This is due to a variety of reasons, such as menstrual blood loss, a higher incidence of iron deficiency, and the metabolic demands of pregnancy and childbirth. Such a gender imbalance in the prevalence of anemia has led to increased research and investigations into the role of biological (such as genetic and hormonal), social (such as lifestyle and cultural) and environmental factors that contribute to the development of anemia predominantly in women. It has also been suggested by the American Society of Hematology that sex and gender-specific approaches to the diagnosis, research and treatment of anemia should be considered due to the increasing knowledge on the effects of anemia on women’s health and how anemia is linked to adverse neonatal and maternal outcomes. All of the above emphasizes the health implications of the gender difference in the prevalence of anemia, underpinning the need for further understanding of the differences in anemia between men and women and the requirement for more targeted and gender-specific treatments for anemia in women. This provides a coherent framework for the essay, as it is evident that the main ideas and themes of each section are developed and followed through. Although the introductory paragraph of the essay justifies the focus on women in the essay by saying that it is important to recognize the differences in the prevalence of anemia in men and women, the fact that gender-specific treatment should be considered is mainly emphasized in section 1.2 by considering the increased research and investigations and section 1.3 places more emphasis on the criteria for gender-specific treatments and the possible barriers to such a provision.

Importance of Early Detection and Treatment

Without treatment, anemia can permanently damage your body’s organs. One of the most serious complications of anemia, especially iron-deficiency anemia, is an increased risk of heart-related illnesses. When your body is low on red blood cells, your heart has to work harder to move oxygen to your organs. Day-to-day activities and daily functioning becomes difficult for them. Over time, this can lead to an enlarged heart or heart failure. But it may be many years after the anemia has been treated before the heart can be completely free from disease. So it is better to take necessary steps for early detection and required treatment of anemia. Also, many of the symptoms of anemia, such as tiredness, shortness of breath, and palpitations, also occur in healthy pregnancies, so it may be harder to detect and diagnose anemia in pregnancy. Early diagnosis and proper treatment can prevent a mild case of anemia from developing into a more severe one. This will protect the person from the worsening of symptoms and the need for more powerful drugs or hospitalization. Always keep in mind that the main goal of the treatment is to increase red blood cells in order to improve the oxygen flow to tissues, thus reducing the workload of the heart. Don’t just rely on iron rich foods. Even with a good diet, iron supplements may be needed to reach the correct iron level. On the contrary, usually supplements are not advised for people who do not have deficiency in iron because there is a potential to develop iron overload which can be dangerous to the liver and heart. Finally, remember that chronic diseases can be managed with the right treatment, but anemia, which also can cause severe and lasting damage to the body, must be diagnosed and treated. With less red blood cells in your body, the heart has to work harder to get enough oxygen and nutrients to the rest of your body. When the heart is overworked for a long and intense period of time, it will eventually fail and it will interfere with the normal function of the organs. You may notice problems such as an irregular heart beat or an enlarged heart.

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Causes of Anemia in Women

Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anemia in women. About 20% of women, 50% of pregnant women, and 3% of men do not have enough iron in their body. The reason the risk for anemia is higher in women is because of blood loss from menstruation and the body not being able to absorb enough iron from the diet. This is the type of anemia that is usually experienced by healthy people, and is not one of the hereditary or chronic anemias. The body needs iron to make hemoglobin. Without an adequate amount of iron, the body will not get enough oxygen. The body cannot produce hemoglobin on its own. When the amount of iron required to make a red blood cell is missing, the body will use up the stores of iron and anemia will occur. Menstruation causes the loss of red blood cells. In a period of normal menstruation, a woman loses an average of 30 to 40 cc of blood over 3 to 5 days. This amounts to 15 to 20 mg of iron. However, it is not normal for a woman to lose heavy amounts of blood. If a woman has menorrhagia (heavy menstrual bleeding), it is important to seek medical advice. There are other causes of iron deficiency such as a diet low in iron, chronic blood loss, a parasite or a disease or condition that affects the absorption of iron. Also, taking too much of some over-the-counter pain relievers or drinking coffee or tea can affect iron absorption. These substances can cause blood loss in the stomach that will lead to the loss of iron. Gin, vitamin E, foods high in vitamin C and antacids may increase the absorption of iron and help prevent anemia. Iron deficiency is treated by taking iron supplements and incorporating iron into the diet. When taking iron supplements, the iron should be taken on an empty stomach for better absorption. Some people cannot tolerate iron supplements. This can be decreased by starting with a small dose and increasing it slowly. The most common side effect of iron is constipation. Taking smaller doses several times a day or taking the iron with food can help with this. Iron supplements change the color of the stool to a dark color. However, this is not a cause for worry. Iron through the diet can be increased by eating foods that have a high iron level such as lean meats and seafood. The iron found in meat (heme iron) is absorbed much faster than the iron found in vegetables (non-heme iron) so it may be helpful to try to eat more meat than veggies. Iron found in fruits and vegetables encourage the absorption of non-heme iron and can be used in conjunction with meats as a mixture for a better diet. Hemochromatosis is a more severe type of iron overload disease caused by a mutation which leads to increased absorption of iron from the gut. The excess iron take settles in various organs and tissues over time, causing damage; this can cause anemia. This is usually a hereditary disease and the most common gene mutation for hereditary hemochromatosis is the HFE gene. Hemochromatosis can cause serious health complications such as liver diseases, diabetes, and tough skin. Although hemochromatosis is a genetic disorder and cannot be cured, treatment to remove the excess iron can help symptoms and prevent damage to organs. This is done by blood removal – when blood is removed, iron is also drawn out of the body, giving the organs the ability to work better. This treatment is performed weekly until iron levels are back to normal and then maintenance is performed every other month. Symptoms start to improve within a few weeks of the first blood removal.

Iron Deficiency

Iron is an essential element for the formation of hemoglobin, the molecule that carries oxygen in the blood. When the body is deficient in iron, it cannot produce the number of blood cells it needs and the existing blood cells become smaller and paler. Reduced hemoglobin levels will result in iron-deficiency anemia. Iron deficiency may be caused by several factors. For example, a diet lacking in iron-rich food can lead to this condition, although in the developed world this is very uncommon. There are two types of dietary iron—haem iron, which is found in animal products and is easily absorbed by the body, and non-haem iron, which is found in plant-based foods and is less well absorbed by the body. Women with heavy periods are at a higher risk of iron deficiency. Donation of blood frequently or the presence of internal bleeding due to a medical condition can also reduce iron levels in the body. In addition, the body’s ability to absorb and use iron (iron bioavailability) largely depends on the presence of other substances. For instance, iron absorption is enhanced by vitamin C. However, under normal circumstances, adults only absorb a small amount of iron from the diet each day. The average adult male and female need to absorb approximately 0.5-1 mg and 1-2 mg of iron daily, respectively, to substitute the amount of iron that is lost each day by processes such as skin sloughing and intestinal cell desquamation. Children, especially during stages of rapid growth, require even more daily iron. The iron in the body is recycled; thus, under normal circumstances, the amount of iron in the body is relatively constant, only shifting from one area in the body to another when there is increased need. However, if daily iron losses are not restored through diet or supplementation—such as when a person has iron-deficiency anemia—the body’s iron stores will decrease and there will be insufficient iron to support production of red blood cells.

Vitamin Deficiencies

Different vitamins play an important role in the production and maintenance of healthy red blood cells. For example, vitamin C is needed to properly absorb iron, and vitamin A is essential for the synthesis of red blood cells. The presence of folic acid, one of the B vitamins, and vitamin B-12 is also necessary for the normal production of red blood cells. If someone is deficient in one or more of these vitamins, there can be serious effects on the production and health of red blood cells. For example, a deficiency in vitamin B-12 can lead to a condition known as pernicious anemia, which can cause a variety of symptoms from an irregular heartbeat to numbness and tingling in the hands and feet. Vitamin B-12 is found almost exclusively in animal-based foods, so vegetarians and vegans are especially prone to developing a deficiency in this vitamin. However, it is also the case that as people age, the production of stomach acid necessary to help vitamin B-12 absorption declines. This can lead to a deficiency in vitamin B-12 and pernicious anemia in many patients over the age of 50. On the other hand, a deficiency in folic acid can also result in a decreased production of red blood cells and anemia. However, many types of anemia caused by a lack of folic acid can be easily treated with daily folic acid supplements. Overall, while vitamin deficiencies are a less common cause of anemia compared to iron deficiencies, one should be aware of and can usually seek to mitigate the chances of developing anemia by having a diet rich in the proper vitamins.

Chronic Diseases and Medical Conditions

Additionally, anemia in women is caused by chronic diseases and medical conditions. Anemia can be hidden within the signs of other diseases, and this could prevent its diagnosis and treatment. This means that when a chronic disease or other medical condition is present, especially one that can relate to decreased production of red blood cells, the anemia is often overlooked and overshadowed. Anemia is a frequent symptom of chronic kidney disease, which is attributed to the impaired ability of the kidney to produce erythropoietin, a hormone that stimulates the body to make red blood cells. The risk for anemia in chronic kidney disease increases as kidney function decreases over time. Anemia in patients with chronic heart failure is a common problem that has been previously very underrecognized and undertreated. However, there is recently increased interest in both studying the disease and identifying methods for the treatment of anemia and thus improving patient care. The explanation for anemia in conditions such as chronic heart failure is not immediately clear but is thought to be in relation to the lack of circulating iron in the body. Anemia can worsen the symptoms of another medical condition, or anemia can make the heart disease more severe. Last but not least, anemia in cancer patients is mainly due to the effects of the cancer on the body. As the cancer cells continue to grow, the tumor consumes the nearby blood and thus deprives the healthy cells of circulation, leading to the reduction of red blood cells in the circulatory system. Besides, anemia can also result from cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation. Both of these therapies can negatively impact the normal functioning of the bone marrow, where blood cells are made. As life expectancy increases, more patients will have chronic diseases, and so recognizing anemia in these conditions becomes significantly important. Anemia in chronic diseases and other medical conditions is both common and critical. Early therapy can occasionally prevent severe, possibly life-threatening problems. Selecting the appropriate method of treatment involves the physician looking into the chronic disease and finding the optimal balance among various therapeutic objectives.

Pregnancy and Menstruation

Fibroids are noncancerous growths in the uterus and are common among women during their reproductive years. They can cause heavy menstrual bleeding and prolonged menses. Endometriosis is a disorder in which the tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus. It can cause abnormal blood clotting and heavy menses. If a woman has heavy menses that last more than a week, this can increase the blood loss and can lead to anemia. Irregular menstrual bleeding and pelvic pain are the symptoms of endometriosis. Ovulation bleeding happens between two menstrual periods and at the time of ovulation. Women who experience heavy menses may feel tired and experience abdominal cramps during menstrual cycles. Women who are trying to conceive or have a gynecological problem should live a healthy life and keep an active lifestyle to reduce symptoms. Medication and surgery treatment are also available for controlling menstrual-related anemia.

On the other hand, menstruation contributes to anemia in women by causing the loss of red blood cells. The rise and fall of hormone levels during the menstrual cycle can lead to uterine muscle contraction and shedding of the endometrial lining. Women who experience heavy menstrual bleeding are especially at risk for developing anemia. However, although it is common to experience menstrual-related anemia, the symptom can be an indicator of a larger medical issue such as fibroids, endometriosis, abnormal blood clotting, or ovulation.

A more severe form of anemia during pregnancy is called thalassemia. Thalassemia is a genetic disorder and is caused by the destruction of red blood cells. Folate, also known as folic acid deficiency, can lead to a type of anemia called megaloblastic anemia. Folate is essential for red blood cell maturation and division. Because of this, during rapid growth states like pregnancy when there’s increased red blood cell production, the mother’s folate requirements are especially high. Many women do not know that they are anemic and discover it during a routine prenatal blood test during their first trimester.

Another common cause of anemia in women is pregnancy. The expansion of the circulatory system that occurs in pregnancy requires a higher amount of iron to supply oxygen to the growing baby and for maternal tissues such as the placenta and the uterus. This can lead to iron deficiency and subsequently anemia. All pregnant women should be screened for anemia and have iron supplementation during pregnancy. Treatment of iron deficiency is very important during pregnancy as the risk of pre-term delivery, low birth weight, and infant mortality in anemic pregnant women is significantly higher.

Symptoms of Anemia in Women

For example, those who suffer from anemia tend to experience more fatigue and weakness than those who do not have the condition. This could be due to the fact that anemia can reduce the amount of oxygen in the blood that reaches the muscles, which in turn impairs muscle function and makes the sufferer more susceptible to muscle fatigue. In turn, fatigue tends to make physical and mental symptoms of anemia more acute, and it can be rather difficult to choose which symptom to address. But it goes without saying that if a patient is constantly feeling fatigued, this should be interpreted as the body indicating that it requires more rest and proper nutrition. This is why it is crucial to interpret the symptoms of anemia correctly, so that the appropriate steps can be taken to both alleviate symptoms and to treat the underlying cause of the anemia. It is interesting to note that there is a particular type of anemia known as iron deficiency anemia, in which the body does not have sufficient iron to produce enough hemoglobin. This in turn means that less oxygen can be carried in the blood, which can result in symptoms such as fatigue and weakness. Some health professionals suggest that fatigue might not just be a physical symptom of anemia, but a mental one too. Iron deficiency anemia in particular can often result in cognitive and mood dysfunction, which means that the mind is also then impaired as a result of a lack of enough oxygen being carried to the brain in the blood. This can manifest as irritability, apathy, low mood, or poor concentration.

Fatigue and Weakness

Whether you’re feeling fatigued or simply low in energy, finding the motivation to hit the gym can be tough. What many people don’t realize is that a lack of motivation to exercise and general fatigue can be signs of anemia. In fact, this is one of the most common symptoms among women with the condition. Fatigue occurs because your body doesn’t have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to its many parts. And since red blood cells provide energy, a low count can result in fatigue. What’s more, fatigue may occur even if you’ve been sitting still for less than 10 minutes, says Dr. Rindfleisch. “It won’t respond to rest or sleep.” Instead, this type of fatigue indicates that exercise caused new red blood cells to be used or destroyed as a result of foot strike – the moment when your foot hits the ground with each step. As red blood cells carry oxygen to different parts of the body, allowing them to regenerate and repair tissue, a lack of this nutrient can extend recovery time and contribute to muscle and tissue pain, notes Dr. Rindfleisch. But fatigue can result from more than just the absence of red blood cells. “It’s actually a combination of too little oxygen and not enough of the metabolic by-products getting out of the system,” she says. And without proper release, lactic acid can build up and cause more pain in the body as well. So, why don’t people just pay attention to the sign and begin exercising? As Dr. Rindfleisch points out, “It’s a converse relationship.” Although exercise does help to release endorphins and may ease depression, individuals with anemia are not motivated to expend what little energy they have. On the other hand, work and school obligations can easily lead sufferers to believe that they are simply tired, she says. But low levels of iron can also impact the quality and quantity of sleep. Iron is a vital component in the creation of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that contributes to the regulation of the sleep-wake cycle. When the body’s natural means of producing dopamine are interrupted, individuals may experience restless leg syndrome and periodic limb movement during rest, according to Dr. Rindfleisch. These conditions can lead to sleep disturbances and result in further fatigue the next day.

Pale Skin and Nail Beds

Pale skin and nail beds are also common signs of anemia in women. Hemoglobin is responsible for the red color of the blood vessels in the nail beds. When the red blood cell count is low, these blood vessels become empty and the nail beds appear pale. In addition, the skin may become pale because there is less blood flow to the skin’s surface. This can be seen in several parts of the body, such as the face, gums, inner lips, and the inside of the bottom eyelids. However, these signs and symptoms are not usually seen until anemia has become quite severe. In fact, this process may take a few weeks to become visible. Paleness can occur in people of all skin colors. However, it is most easily recognized in the lighter skin on the inside of the bottoms of the eyelids or on the gums. It is important to recognize these signs and symptoms and seek evaluation and possible treatment when they are first noticed – do not wait for signs of severe anemia to develop. Prompt attention to symptoms can help to prevent the progression of anemia and lead to a faster recovery. It is important for patients to recognize the possibility of anemia and to seek appropriate evaluation and treatment, especially if they have risk factors for anemia or symptoms consistent with anemia.

Shortness of Breath

The level of anemia determines the severity of symptoms experienced, and shortness of breath usually occurs when anemia has become quite severe. In the normal course of things, hemoglobin in the red blood cells picks up oxygen from the lungs, transports it to the tissues where it is needed, and then gathers up carbon dioxide to take it back to the lungs where it can be exhaled. However, when the hemoglobin level is low due to anemia, oxygen is not transported around the body effectively. As a result, the heart has to pump more blood to try to deliver enough oxygen to the body. It is important to note that the heart is a muscle too, which responds to demands that are made on it. When the heart is asked to work harder for a long time, as happens when anemia is severe, the muscle can actually become thicker and less efficient over time, a condition known as left ventricular hypertrophy. Also, the left ventricular chamber of the heart, which is responsible for pumping oxygenated blood around the body, becomes smaller as the heart muscle thickens. This combination of muscle thickening and a smaller chamber reduces the amount of blood that the heart is able to pump out with each contraction. The medical implication of this is that the heart becomes less able to respond to demands for increased blood flow. Patients with severe anemia are thus exposed to the risk that their blood circulation will not be able to respond effectively in, for example, exercise or when an infection develops. Although the patient may not be consciously aware, the body cells that are responsible for wound healing and the immune response may not be delivered the oxygen and nutrients needed for these processes, and the heart becomes even more susceptible to failure. Shortness of breath becomes obvious when anemia is moderate to severe, to the point that the oxygen carried by the blood is no longer enough to support the body’s normal activities. The person may notice it first during exercise or activity, but as the anemia worsens the body’s tolerance for physical effort reduces, and general shortness of breath becomes noticed even at rest.

Rapid or Irregular Heartbeat

When you have anemia, your heart must pump more blood to make up for the lack of oxygen in the blood. This can lead to an enlarged heart or even heart failure. An irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia, can also occur and it can be life-threatening. Anemia can contribute to an arrhythmia in people who already have heart disease. When the heart’s normal rhythm is disrupted, it can’t pump blood effectively, which may cause organs to function poorly or to shut down. An arrhythmia occurs when the heart’s electrical system, which controls the heart rate, is defective, causing the heart to beat erratically. Faster heartbeats, as well as additional heartbeats, may be felt in the chest. Some symptoms of an irregular heartbeat include the feeling of fluttering in the chest, chest pain or discomfort, lightheadedness or dizziness, and shortness of breath. There are different types of arrhythmias. Some are mild and do not require treatment. However, some arrhythmias can be serious or even life-threatening. With this essay, we conclude the exploration of various aspects of anemia in women. The symptoms and treatment options of anemia emphasized in the paper make it clear that early detection and treatment of anemia is vital. When anemia is left untreated, the lack of oxygen in the blood can damage the heart, brain, and other organs of the body. As we discussed early in this essay, the focus was on the symptoms of anemia in women, which include fatigue, weakness, pale skin and nail beds, shortness of breath, rapid or irregular heartbeat, and dizziness and headaches. As outlined in the essay, there are diverse treatment options when it comes to dealing with anemia and they depend on the causes. This allows for a broad sense of diagnosis and treatment in the field. It is also emphasized that self-care with a proper diet plays an important role in the treatment of anemia in women. However, the essay makes it clear that such treatments should not be used as an alternative to medical treatment that is recommended by a doctor. This essay provides factual and informative content for women who need to know about anemia and its deadly symptoms.

Dizziness and Headaches

Anemia can be linked to a range of cognitive impairment and fatigue. People with anemia are known to be more prone to have dizziness and headaches. Dizziness is a medically complex symptom and as it can be linked to about 80 or more medical conditions. It is a light-headedness, unsteadiness, or disequilibrium. Dizziness can lead to a faint, totally off balance, or a feeling of almost passing out. On the other hand, the other symptoms of anemia such as low energy level, fatigue, and weakness can coexist and contribute to dizziness. Headaches are one of the common symptoms of anemia. It can often lead to discomfort and disability. Headache can have a variety of causes but the important point regarding the dizziness and also the headache in anemia is that it is mostly due to the reduced supply of blood which can be seen as low blood pressure. This is actually the main reason for the research being done on proving that dizziness and headache can actually be the symptoms of anemia. A recent study on 1200 adults from 15 primary care practices found that people with frequent headaches are more likely to be diagnosed with anemia. A good question to be asking is whether anemia can cause brain tissues to receive lesser oxygen. Brain tissues are highly sensitive to the oxygen concentration and studies suggest that a minimal decrease in the cellular concentration of oxygen can lead to a significant change in the behavior of the brain tissue. Rather than just being a source of discomfort, one could imagine that chronic dizziness and headache can lead to decreased quality of life and perhaps an increased propensity to accidents and this is why it is important to treat anemia as soon as possible.

Treatment of Anemia in Women

Iron and vitamin supplements are an effective treatment for anemia in women. The supplements usually come in the form of ferrous sulfate, fumaric acid, or gluconate and should be taken with vitamin C to increase their absorption. The full course of iron supplements is usually prescribed for 3-6 months, although most people start to feel better after a few weeks. Vitamin supplements like folic acid, vitamin B12, and vitamin C are also given besides iron supplements. These vitamins assist in the process of hematopoiesis just like iron. Patients should take a balanced diet which is rich in iron. However, these iron and vitamin supplements should be stored in a safe place and out of the reach of children, as an overdose of iron can be fatal. In fact, signs of iron poisoning include nausea, vomiting, severe diarrhea, dehydration, and even bloody stools. The next form of treatment for anemia in women is dietary changes. By eating more iron-rich foods, people can quickly restore their iron levels. There are two types of iron in foods, heme iron – found in animal foods such as liver, kidneys, or lean red meats and non-heme iron – found in plant foods like cereals, beans, lentils, and nuts. Non-heme iron is not absorbed as well as heme iron. The national recommendation for supplemental iron intake is 14-18mg/day for menstruating women. The highest iron sources are liver, meat, poultry, fish, and shellfish. There are also good sources of iron such as beans, raisins, oatmeal, and some grain products. However, three factors should be considered when changing the diet plan. First, it is the side effects of some iron-overdose foods. For instance, iron-overdose foods such as chocolate, sweet and sugary foods, carbonated drinks, and caffeine may trigger nausea and constipation. Second, an iron-rich diet may interfere with the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals (e.g. calcium) or even some prescription medications (e.g. high blood pressure medication). Third, it is the risk of foodborne illness. Improper food-handling during the process of ordering, cooking, and storing food may lead to serious diseases. All these factors may cause anemia patients to consider doctor-supervised diet plans.

Iron and Vitamin Supplements

Iron supplements are generally considered first-line treatment for anemia in women, because restoring iron stores in the body will also restore the red blood cells. In general, people with anemia need at least 300 mg of elemental iron per day; this form of the mineral increases the production of hemoglobin. A variety of iron salts may be used for the manufacturing of iron supplements, but not all of these are well tolerated by the digestive system. Some individuals find it beneficial to start with a smaller dose and gradually increase their intake, as this reduces the likelihood of common side effects such as stomach upset and pain, nausea, and diarrhea. In addition, individuals taking iron supplements should take each dose with a vitamin C-rich beverage in order to increase the level of absorption; similarly, the dose should be timed between meals and not with food or beverages that contain caffeine. Also, those taking supplements should not take antacids, calcium, or zinc at the same time, since these can interfere with iron absorption. Vitamin supplements are typically more complex and include a variety of nutrients, such as folic acid, iron, and B12, that help stimulate the body’s generation of red blood cells. Since a deficiency in one or more of these nutrients can also cause anemia, taking a supplement helps address many potential causes at once and supplies the cells and marrow in the bones with the ingredients they need to aid recovery.

Dietary Changes

In the case of anemia, the diet won’t only provide essential vitamins and minerals to help you and your body thrive, it becomes a foundational part of your treatment plan as a whole. Most women would be familiar with the idea of eating plenty of foods high in iron as many commonly available sources are promoted for general well-being. Anemia sufferers must take an additional step to introduce iron-rich foods in every meal, so including a stronger and more concentrated set of sources is important as well. For instance, instead of gaining iron intake primarily through red meat, leafy greens such as spinach and kale, fish and poultry – in fact all types of food consumed should be top-tier iron sources. Moreover, I learned that while vitamin C can be consumed with iron-rich meals to strengthen iron absorption, it’s necessary to avoid certain components within meals and drinks intake to lessen the counteractive effects they have on iron throughout the digestive process. For example, tannins in tea and coffee and calcium found in dairy products can prevent the body from absorbing iron both at the time of taking supplements and at meal times. There is some evidence from recent studies to suggest that potassium and phosphates might also exhibit these properties, meaning patience and vigilance is necessary in successful meal adaptations. Herbal remedies and alternative medicine advocate the use of other minerals and vitamins within anemia treatment such as honey, copper, and licorice root. Despite this, there is little scientific basis for these substances as a remedial component of the illness; many herbal treatments have been linked with excessive metal or vitamin buildups which can be just as harmful as anemia itself over time. Ensuring a balanced and nutritious diet is the way to host a varied fatal environment for anemia diseases and to maintain a strong and lasting approach to mitigating its impact over time.

Treating Underlying Medical Conditions

In cases where the underlying medical condition is known to cause anemia, the primary focus of the treatment is to address the causative issue. For instance, if heavy menstrual periods are the root cause of anemia, the doctor will likely investigate the possible reasons for the heavy menstrual bleeding and suggest appropriate treatment options. Endometriosis is a common condition in women that can lead to heavy menstrual bleeding and anemia. When endometriosis is diagnosed to be the cause of anemia, managing the progress of the disease becomes a vital part of treating anemia. This may involve the use of contraceptive medication, hormone therapy, or even surgery. Similarly, when anemia is associated with chronic or long-term unnoticed GI blood loss, locating and removing the lesion that causes blood loss becomes important. This involves close monitoring of the amount of blood lost by the individual, which often will not be visible. Tools like fecal occult blood tests and endoscopy may be employed to assist the diagnosis. Also, iron therapy may be initiated in order to restore the iron reserve in the body. In severe cases, red blood cell transfusion may be needed as part of the treatment. In general, treatment of anemia in the context of identified underlying medical conditions should include the following engagements between the patient and the doctor: discussing the rationale of the treatment and providing clear explanations and the desired outcomes at each step; understanding the possible side effects and planning to manage them if necessary; planning the appropriate time for a follow-up investigation (e.g. blood tests and endoscopy) to assess the effectiveness of the treatment. It is also important to communicate any unusual changes in the condition between the scheduled visits. By developing a mutual understanding between the patient and the healthcare provider and engaging in a close monitoring and management process, treating anemia in the context of underlying medical conditions can be more assured and successful.

Blood Transfusions and Other Medical Interventions

Occasionally, anemia may be so severe that it is life-threatening, prompting the need for hospitalization and blood transfusions. A blood transfusion is a medical procedure that is prescribed for patients who have an abnormally low number of red blood cells – and therefore decreased oxygen delivery to the body’s organs – or low blood volume following serious blood loss. Blood for transfusions can only come from volunteer donors; it is thoroughly tested for diseases and blood typing to prevent incompatibility reactions in the recipient. During a blood transfusion, a small needle is used to insert an intravenous line into a blood vessel. The blood then travels through the line and into the bloodstream. With a transfusion, the blood is being added to the recipient’s blood system; it does not replace the recipient’s blood. The procedure is simple and generally takes 1 to 4 hours. A patient can be given one unit of blood at a time or several units, depending on the severity of the anemia. Blood transfusions are relatively safe and common, but they do carry some risk. These risks include allergic reactions, which can cause rashes or hives, and more serious reactions, such as infections and lung injury. The most common and serious type of transfusion reaction is a febrile non-hemolytic reaction, which is characterized by chills and fever. Such reactions can be brought on by white blood cells in the transfused blood or by antibodies in the patient’s bloodstream. In some cases, a medication such as acetaminophen or an allergy medication can be given alongside the blood transfusion to prevent these reactions. Patients who receive repeated blood transfusions are at risk for a condition called “secondary hemochromatosis,” a form of iron overload. This is not a complication for first-time blood recipients; it takes months or years of transfusions to develop this problem. To avoid this complication, these patients may be prescribed chelation therapy, a treatment involving the intravenous delivery of a medication that binds to and removes excess iron from the blood. Chelation treatment can pose serious complications and is meant to serve as a last resort when other methods of preventing iron overload have been ineffective. For this reason, blood transfusions are typically reserved for patients who have essentially normal bone marrow function and yet have anemia that is severe and does not respond to other forms of treatment. Transfusions might also be used for patients with active bleeding to boost the blood’s ability to carry oxygen until the cause of the blood loss can be resolved. Finally, they might temporarily be given to patients with extremely low red blood cell counts to help them recover from serious medical interventions that impair blood production in the bone marrow.

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