What is Iron-Deficiency Anemia?

What is Iron-Deficiency Anemia?

One common side effect of uterine fibroids is heavy bleeding during the menstrual cycle. Losing too much blood means that there aren’t enough red blood cells carrying oxygen throughout your body to various organs and tissues. This can lead to a condition called iron-deficiency anemia. Learn about iron-deficiency anemia’s signs, symptoms, and treatments.* 

What are the signs of iron-deficiency anemia? 

Iron deficiency anemia typically develops slowly and can interfere with your daily routine. While blood tests are needed to diagnose iron-deficiency anemia, there are noticeable symptoms that you should look out for if you’re not feeling up to par. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Brittle nails
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Low body temperature, feeling cold
  • Pale skin
  • Pica (craving items not considered food, like soil, ice, or paper)
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath

How is anemia treated if I have fibroids? 

Depending on the severity of your fibroids, there will be a number of treatment options. You and your doctor will decide the best treatment option for your fibroids and anemia. 

With mild cases, a more conservative approach will likely be recommended. Monitoring symptoms and fibroid growth and treating them with medications can help. Medications like gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists (GnRHa) and certain types of birth control can decrease menstrual bleeding or stop periods completely. This can help your blood count return to normal. 

Sometimes, iron-deficiency anemia is severe enough to require one or more blood transfusions. This can replenish your red blood cell count but is a temporary fix. The cause of the anemia still has to be addressed.

When fibroids are moderate to large, or small but still cause severe symptoms due to their placement, there are both surgical and non-surgical options available. Shrinking and/or removing your fibroids will reduce bleeding and either prevent or treat anemia. 

How can proper nutrition help?

Iron-deficiency anemia is also related to nutrient deficiencies. Medication and/or fibroid surgery can decrease your menstrual bleeding, but proper nutrition will help to build and maintain red blood cells. Healthy red blood cells deliver oxygen to your body’s tissues and help your body function without fatigue, dizziness, or shortness of breath. 

Increasing the iron in your diet is usually the first step for treating iron-deficiency anemia. Beans, eggs, fish, meat, and peas are all great sources of iron. An iron supplement may also be recommended, which can come in a pill, tablet, or via infusion. Your doctor can explain the benefits and risks of each form, and help you decide which one may be best for you. 

Other nutrients that also may help to support red blood cell function are folic acid, vitamin C, and vitamin B12. For most women, taking a daily multivitamin will contain enough of these vitamins to meet your daily goal. 

Iron-deficiency anemia is a serious condition, but it can be well-managed with help from your healthcare team. Speak with your doctor to discuss any concerns you have about iron-deficiency anemia. 


*Handzel, S. (2022, March 16). Preventing Iron-Deficiency Anemia in Women with Fibroids. Healthgrades. Retrieved March 26, 2023, from https://www.healthgrades.com/right-care/womens-health/preventing-iron-deficiency-anemia-in-women-with-fibroids