Fatigue. Dizziness. Irritability. Millions in the United States are experiencing these symptoms, but few know they may be the signs of a condition called iron deficiency anemia (IDA). IDA is most common among women of childbearing age and in those with special conditions, such as chronic kidney disease or gastrointestinal disorders that can cause bleeding.
IDA can sap the energy of even the most energetic individuals. Flora Migyanka, a mother and fitness enthusiast, learned firsthand the impact of this condition. “I couldn’t drag myself out of bed and felt an overwhelming feeling of fatigue,” she says. “I had labored breathing and horrible headaches. I do a lot of yoga and even the simplest poses caused me to become short of breath. I was always cold and just didn’t feel right.”
IDA occurs when someone does not have enough iron to produce sufficient red blood cells or makes red blood cells that are too small. There are many causes of IDA, but the most common include: blood loss, a lack of iron in the diet or an inability to absorb iron. While fatigue is the most common symptom of IDA, many patients also experience other symptoms, such as shortness of breath and an increased heart rate. Unfortunately, IDA is often missed because these symptoms can be attributed to other causes.
“Many times, health care professionals do not connect these common symptoms to a treatable condition like IDA,” says Robin Wachsman, an oncology nurse and nationally recognized IDA expert who currently practices at the West Clinic in Memphis, Tenn. “Health care professionals need to act as detectives and find the underlying causes of a patient’s suffering and patients need to be forthcoming about how they’re feeling. This is especially the case with IDA because, once diagnosed, the condition can be managed.”
But even after diagnosis, some patients do not share lingering symptoms with their health care provider. It is important to remember that there are many treatment options for IDA, including diet and medications. It may take time for a health care professional to identify the best way to manage a patient’s condition, so it is important for patients with IDA to keep their health care provider informed about how they feel.
The Iron Matters campaign was recently launched by AMAG Pharmaceuticals Inc. to spread the word about IDA, its causes and symptoms. At IronMatters.com, visitors can get more information about the condition, read stories of other IDA patients and learn from experts. For those who have already been diagnosed, there are also tips for living with IDA.
Anyone who suspects they may be suffering from IDA should speak with a health care professional. Always consult with a physician before taking a medication or supplement to treat IDA.