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Are Heavy, Painful Periods Making You Anemic?

Heavy, painful periods can make it difficult for some women to function in their daily activities and for women in their 20s, painful periods are the leading cause of lost time from school and work. But did you know that heavy menstrual bleeding also is a common cause of iron deficiency?

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Iron deficiency means that your body does not have enough red blood cells to meet your body’s needs because of a lack of iron. Iron is an essential component of hemoglobin, the oxygen carrying pigment in the blood. Iron is also part of myoglobin, which helps muscle cells store oxygen. Without enough iron, the body's fuel cannot be properly synthesized.

Two primary causes of iron deficiency are not eating enough iron-rich foods and heavy blood loss. Up to 15% of women will experience heavy menstrual bleeding at some point during their life and among these women, as many as 20% will go on to develop anemia.

Some of the symptoms of excessively heavy menstrual bleeding include:

  • Severe cramping
  • Soaking through a pad or having to change a tampon every hour or less for several hours in a row
  • Passing large blood clots
  • Needing double protection at night (tampons and a pad, for example)
  • Having periods that last longer than seven days

Excessive blood loss due to heavy menstrual bleeding can create iron deficiency and because iron deficiency can occur slowly, over an extended period of time, many women do not always recognize the problem. Many never think to mention these symptoms to their healthcare providers and so the condition can go untreated. If you are experiencing heavy menstrual bleeding it is important to recognize the symptoms of anemia. These can include:

  • shortness of breath,
  • feeling cold all the time,
  • palpitations,
  • ice craving,
  • headaches,
  • dizziness,
  • nervousness,
  • lack of concentration,
  • forgetfulness,
  • fatigue,
  • sexual dysfunction,
  • and decreased job performance.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of heaving menstrual bleeding, or the symptoms of iron deficiency, it is important to tell your AOA healthcare provider. A simple blood test will tell if you are experiencing anemia and the condition can be treated.

Read more about iron deficiency at:

http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/understanding-anemia-basics http://www.anemia.org/patients/feature-articles/content.php?contentid=000242§ionid=00015