Feeling sluggish and tired is something women often learn to live with. With monthly hormonal swings, the physical demands of caregiving, and the mental tax of trying to do it all, very often women fall into bed at the end of the day and awaken with the same heavy burden when they open their eyes the next morning.
Let’s face it—we’ve all had those moments.
But what if your fatigue seems to be ongoing? And no matter how much water, caffeine or exercise your incorporate to counter the weakness, you still feel like you can’t go on another minute.
There may be a more tangible cause than the rigorous demands of work, home and family.
Iron deficiency anemia is a common form of anemia in women of menstruating age that can often be overlooked by women or unnoticed by members of the medical community because its symptoms are so mild. But the symptoms tend to intensify until it’s hard not to notice the insidious condition and its prolonged side effects.
According to the Mayo Clinic, iron deficiency anemia is a condition in which blood lacks adequate healthy red blood cells. It is the red blood cells that carry oxygen to the body’s tissues, giving your body energy and your skin a healthy color.
Try, for a moment, to hold your breath and see what lack of oxygen can do to a body!
As the name implies, iron deficiency anemia is due to insufficient iron. Without enough iron, your body can’t produce enough hemoglobin, a substance in red blood cells that enables them to carry oxygen. As a result, iron deficiency anemia may leave you tired, weak and pale.
For women with heavy to lengthy menstrual periods, the body cannot keep up production to create enough blood and will eventually turn to iron stores within the bone marrow to make up for the loss each month.
Though iron deficiency anemia is a logical explanation for many common fatigue symptoms, it is not something women should ever self diagnose because slow, chronic loss of blood can be a symptom of a peptic ulcer, nonmalignant tumor or cancer. Depression also may cause chronic fatigue, so you should always talk to your health care provider.
Feeling tired is normal for us gals and even frequent fatigue is common for still the toughest of superwomen. If your low energy levels have been ongoing for at least six months or are accompanied by loss of concentration, decreased sexual desire and function, or an aching feeling in the bones, HealthyWomen encourages you to visit your health care provider and request a simple blood count.
This routine test will help your health care provider determine whether something as seemingly natural as your period is to blame. If so, you can choose from several management options like over-the-counter iron supplements or newer treatment procedures like one-time endometrial ablation.
Search the HealthyWomen database for more comprehensive materials and thoroughly researched articles on iron deficiency anemia.
But in the meantime, take a deep breath and listen to your body and maybe you’ll find that you just need a break—because sometimes the only prescription we need is the permission to put ourselves first!