Iron-Deficiency Anemia: My Fight to Maintain Healthy Iron Levels

Ever since my first period at 13, I haven’t had great experiences with that time of the month. Of course, all periods are bad in some way or another, but mine have always been very bad. From heavy bleeding and cramps to an ovarian cyst, to going on the pill, I’ve had a wide array of bad experiences regarding my period, but my most consistent problem is iron deficiency, and iron deficiency anemia.

Iron is an important part of the body, that is found in hemoglobin, which helps carry oxygen throughout your body via red blood cells. Too little iron in the body means that your body can’t make enough red blood cells, which is called anemia. So iron-deficiency anemia is a lack of red blood cells caused by low levels of iron.

Iron deficiency is very common, especially in women. Anemia can range from mild to severe, but all types need to be treated, as there can be long-term complications. Low iron is common in pregnant women and women with heavy periods.

Some of the symptoms of iron deficiency include:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Pale skin
  • Chest pain/rapid heartbeat/shortness of breath
  • Dizziness/headaches/lightheadedness
  • Brittle nails
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Restless legs
  • Pica, which is a craving for non-edible things, like dirt or clay(or in my experience, ice)

Iron deficiency needs to be diagnosed by a doctor, so if you have these symptoms, a doctor will give you a blood test to determine your iron levels.

Treatments include iron-rich foods, iron supplements, and in severe cases, blood transfusions may be required.

My treatment included eating more iron-rich foods, taking iron supplements, and starting birth control in order to lighten my periods. For me, going on the pill helped tremendously, because, before every time I had my period, I thought I was going to pass out because of how lightheaded/dizzy I was, but now I don’t have to deal with that as often.

The hardest part of having anemia, I think in my case is that I would always be so exhausted and would never have any energy to do anything which was not only frustrating, but the fact was until I started getting treatment for my anemia, I did not realize that what I was feeling was not normal. I thought that being tired all the time was just normal until I started to get my energy back. Nobody taught me that the symptoms I was having, together, added up to this. I mean I certainly did not learn about any of this in school. I had no idea that I should have talked to my doctor about the symptoms that I had.

What I have learned from these experiences with my problems regarding my period, is that if you think that something might not be normal, always ask. Don’t let anyone tell you that what you are feeling is just you “overreacting,” or some garbage like that. It’s your body, and chances are, if you have a feeling something isn’t normal, you’re usually right. It never hurts to ask questions, and ask your doctor questions about your health is always extremely important.

 

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