Anemia and Fibroids: How Do These Conditions Affect Life?

Fibroids and Anemia

Uterine fibroids are benign tumors in the uterus that are often associated with heavy bleeding during periods and sometimes between periods. This means that the volume of blood loss during and between periods exceeds the norm. At first, the body compensates for iron deficiency caused by excessive loss of blood but your body’s reserves are not limitless. As a result, anemia can occur in women with uterine fibroids.

Anemia and Uterine Fibroids: How These Conditions Affect Your Life

A lot of women with anemia resulting from uterine fibroids experience chronic fatigue and loss of energy. It can be accompanied by unusually rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, headaches, chewing/craving ice, and even chewing/craving things that are not edible, e.g. dirt, clay, laundry starch.

Common Symptoms Of Anemia

  1. Lightheadedness/dizziness
  2. Heart palpitations
  3. Thinning of hair, hair loss
  4. Brittle nails
  5. Constantly cold hands and feet
  6. Unusually pale skin
  7. Frequent infections (due to weakened immune system)
  8. Restless legs syndrome

With excessive monthly blood loss, iron and hemoglobin is lost along with blood. Hemoglobin carries oxygen and therefore, less oxygen is delivered to a woman’s organs and tissues. In addition, in order to compensate for the lack of circulating red blood cells, the heart is forced to work harder. Sometimes women do not notice the anemia symptoms as abnormal due to the gradual progressively worsening symptoms (due to the deficit of iron and hemoglobin from the heavy blood loss). Even with oral iron, these symptoms often persist and become the patient’s “new normal”.

A Patient of Dr. John Lipman Speaks about Anemia Symptoms

Treatment Options for Anemia and Uterine Fibroids

To cope with anemia symptoms, a woman needs to increase the levels of hemoglobin in her blood. There are several options here.

One of them is taking medications prescribed by a doctor or vitamins that contain the necessary amount of iron.

Diet changes can help increase hemoglobin levels. It is recommended to consume more proteins (chicken, beef liver), and seafood rich in iron.  For vegetarians beans, spinach, oranges, apples, and pomegranate are recommended.

It’s necessary to constantly monitor hemoglobin levels in your blood. This can be done with a simple blood test. But even if a woman takes iron-enriched vitamins/supplements or prescription iron, anemia resulting from uterine fibroids can only be treated by addressing the cause and treating these tumors.

Gynecologists typically won’t operate on women with symptomatic fibroids for a Hemoglobin level below 8g/dL and sometimes even below 10g/dL (normal ~12g/dL). Intravenous infusions of iron or blood can temporarily boost iron/hemoglobin levels to allow surgery. However, iron or blood infusions can elicit allergic reactions and is only buying time. What is necessary is treating the cause and not just the symptoms.

UFE (uterine fibroid embolization) is an effective, minimally invasive, nonsurgical procedure that allows women to treat all fibroids and address all uterine fibroid symptoms, including anemia. It’s an outpatient procedure that allows women to go home the same day and avoid risks and complications of fibroid surgery. In addition, UFE can be performed without any infusion of blood or iron as there is no blood loss during the procedure (unlike surgery). This is particularly important in women who are Jehovah’s Witnesses as they do not accept any blood products.

Uterine Fibroid Embolization in Atlanta, GA

Unusual FAQs Regarding Anemia And Fibroids

Every day, we receive a substantial number of questions and do our best to answer them as clearly and thoroughly as possible. Asking questions is one of the best ways to learn and gain knowledge so we can make educated decisions, and every question has merit. Below are some of the more unusual questions we have been asked about fibroids and their connection to blood disorders and deficiencies.

Do Fibroids Feed On Blood?

While fibroids do have a relationship with blood, they do not feed off of it like vampires. No one really knows why these benign tumors form in the uterus, but research has identified some things that help them thrive and grow.

Fibroids are responsive to certain hormones, and they grow larger when exposed to estrogen. This is one reason that fibroids can rapidly grow larger during the first few months of pregnancy, and it also explains why they might get a bit smaller during menopause when estrogen levels taper off.

Fibroids are also attached to a blood supply that keeps them alive, but they do not feed off of blood. Just like you have to eat food to grow, the fibroids need estrogen to become larger. Additionally, you also have blood circulating through the vessels in your body that carry oxygen and nutrients to keep your body functioning properly. These vessels are the same type that fibroids latch onto to provide them with life support. Without this vital blood supply, the fibroids can not survive. So while fibroids do not feed on blood, they do need a blood supply to stay alive and estrogen to grow larger.

Do Fibroids Absorb Iron?

No, fibroids do not absorb iron like a sponge would soak up water, but they can affect the level of iron you have in your blood indirectly. A very heavy menstrual flow brought on by the presence of uterine fibroids can deplete the iron reserves contained in your blood and result in anemia.

Can Fibroids Cause Low Iron?

Yes, fibroids can cause low iron and a condition called iron-deficiency anemia. Iron is very important to your body because it helps to carry oxygen to other places in our body via the bloodstream. Fibroids can interfere with the body’s ability to provide these areas with adequate levels of oxygen. This happens due to the heavy menstrual bleeding and large blood loss that fibroids can cause. When you lose a great deal of blood, you lose a great deal of iron, because that is where our body stores it.

Can An Iron Deficiency Cause Fibroids?

No, an iron deficiency is not linked to the formation of fibroids, but there is a connection between the two. Fibroids often cause very heavy and long-lasting periods, which result in extensive blood loss. This significant loss of blood can reduce your iron levels to dangerous levels and make you anemic, which is a dangerous condition that can cause dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, and other serious side effects. Unfortunately, little is known about why fibroids develop; however, researchers have discovered that a vitamin D deficiency can make conditions more favorable for fibroids to form.

Can Fibroids Cause A B12 Deficiency?

While fibroids are known for symptoms of extreme bleeding and periods that last longer than normal, and cause iron-deficiency anemia, they do not typically cause a B12 deficiency. There is another variant of this condition called Pernicious anemia, which usually results from issues that affect the digestive system and block the absorption of B12 into your body. B12 is normally sourced from foods such as poultry, meat, eggs, shellfish, and some dairy products.

If you suffer from heavy periods or bleeding between periods and suspect you may have uterine fibroids, call Atlanta Fibroid Center at (770) 953-2600 or make an appointment online.

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