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    Why Are You Anemic?

    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | October 22nd, 2023

    Why Are You Anemic?

    “Why are you on iron?” I ask.

    “I am anemic,” she answers.

    “Why are you anemic?” I ask.

    “I do not know. I know I have been anemic all my life”, she responds.

    And that is where I have a problem. We need to know why we are anemic. Although most of the time, it may be due to our menstrual flow or pregnancy, anemia can be a sign of a more severe condition like bleeding in your stomach, infection, kidney disease, cancer, or autoimmune diseases. By knowing why we are anemic, we can get to the root cause and take care of the problem. It is easy to give medication for a problem, but it is even better to take care of the problem so that we do not have to take medication.

    Anemia is when your body does not produce enough healthy red blood cells. We need red blood cells to carry oxygen to all body parts. When we are anemic, we do not have enough oxygen-rich blood. The lack of oxygen can make us weak and tired. We may also experience shortness of breath, dizziness, headaches, or irregular heartbeat.

    There are many types and causes of anemia. The most common type of anemia is iron deficiency anemia. Please click here to get Your Guide to Anemia- Prevent-Treat-Control. Please read this guide if you have been told that you are anemic so that you can get a clear idea of your condition.

    Keep the following in mind:

    • If you are anemic and it is thought to be due to your menstrual flow – ask for an ultrasound. You may have uterine fibroids causing the heavy menstrual flow, leading to anemia.
    • If you have never been told that you are anemic and then you are told that you are anemic after age 40, you should ask for an ultrasound, but you should also be screened for colon cancer. It would be best if you got a colonoscopy.
    • If you are pregnant and found to be anemic, you should have iron studies obtained, as well as your B12 levels checked.
    • If you are anemic and pregnant and have been told that you have iron-deficient anemia and are not getting better at taking iron by mouth, you can get IV iron. It is so important to correct your anemia before your due date. Anemia puts you at risk for hemorrhage and getting a blood transfusion.

    It is essential to understand why you are anemic. After the why, we then take care of the problem. We then correct the anemia. You might need to take your iron until the problem is corrected.  By treating the problem and taking care of the anemia, you can have more energy for the things you love, which includes such activities as exercising.

    For more information on anemia, please visit the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

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    With her trademark wit and straightforward communication, Dr. Osuagwu continues to dole out valuable medical advice using the letter form and addressing women’s health conditions and issues in a method that was praised for its innovative approach in her earlier award-winning book, Letters to My Sisters: Plain Truths and Straightforward Advice from a Gynecologist. In this book, each letter is paired with reference sources and statistics about the condition that is the subject of the letter.

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    The book discusses common gynecological and women’s health issues in a series of witty and entertaining letters. These letters, all educational, offer suggestions on what approaches to take in tackling the medical problems that typically bring women to an ob/gynecologist. The letters are spiced with art, a poem and quotes. Although its emphasis is on gynecology and women’s health, it touches on some other medical issues that make women visit their doctors.

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