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Why am I so tired?
Who gets anemia?Women with heavy menstrual bleeding or who are pregnant and men and women with chronic diseases are more likely to be anemic. But anyone of any age can develop anemia. There are more than 400 types of anemia! The most common type is iron deficiency anemia, which occurs because the body lacks a sufficient supply of the mineral iron.
Will iron supplements cure iron deficiency anemia?Iron deficiency anemia is treated with recommended dietary changes and the addition of iron supplements to the diet. However, itís important that your doctor determine that you have this type of anemia and that your iron consumption be monitored. Excess iron intake can be harmful. Symptoms of iron overload include fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, irritability, heart disease and joint problems. Your doctor can also help you choose and use iron supplements for maximum benefit; for instance, timed-release iron supplements are not a good choice for most people because iron is primarily absorbed in the upper part of the digestive tract. If you use calcium supplements, they should not be taken at the same time as iron supplements because absorption is reduced. (Keep in mind that iron poisoning is a common cause of accidental poisoning in young children, so your supplements should be kept out of childrenís reach.)
What causes iron deficiency anemia?Common contributors include poor nutrition and a diet low in iron-rich foods, metabolic demands of pregnancy and breastfeeding, heavy menstrual cycles, frequent blood donation, endurance training, digestive conditions and diseases, gastric bypass or weight loss surgery, certain drugs and caffeinated drinks. Vitamin-deficiency anemia may occur when you donít consume nutrients with sufficient vitamin B-12 and folate. Both are necessary for your body to make red blood cells.
Why do I need to see a doctor?To treat anemia successfully, itís important to determine the underlying cause. Your primary care doctor will do a physical examination and order blood tests to confirm the type of anemia and the underlying condition causing it. For instance, some people experience anemia caused by chronic blood loss from gastrointestinal conditions such as ulcers, hemorrhoids or some types of cancers. Overuse of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as aspirin or ibuprofen can also cause anemia. In cases such as these, treatment must focus on the actual disease rather than the anemia that has resulted from it. The first step in successfully overcoming anemia and chronic fatigue is a thorough physical examination.
Dr. Jessica Carlson is a family medicine physician at Sanford North Clinic. She graduated from the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences at Grand Forks and completed her residency in family medicine at the UND Center of Family Medicine in Bismarck.