Can Fibroids Cause Anemia?

One of the most well-known symptoms of uterine fibroids is heavy bleeding or breakthrough bleeding between periods. A typical menstrual cycle is normally 3-7 days long and repeats itself approximately every 28-31 days.

Menstrual cycles for women who experience bleeding lasting longer than a week and can include passing blot clots, having to double up on sanitary products to control bleeding, or changing sanitary pads or tampons every hour and are considered abnormally heavy.

Heavy menstruation over many months can lead to the development of anemia which could require serious treatment and in some cases, even a blood transfusion.

Major symptoms of uterine fibroids
Major symptoms of uterine fibroids

How Do Fibroids Cause Heavy Periods Leading to Anemia?

The uterus is designed to shed the thick lining it creates every 30 days if there is no fertilized egg to nurture. The uterus naturally uses contractions to loosen and discard the unneeded lining each month which occurs during the menstrual cycle.

Uterine fibroids which are non-cancerous tumors grow on or in the uterus and can inhibit the ability of the uterus to contract and function properly so the bleeding does not stop as it should. Fibroids can also put pressure on the lining of the uterus or cause the blood vessels to rapidly grow resulting in excess bleeding or bleeding between periods. As fibroids grow larger or more numerous, bleeding may become worse.

Fibroids are classified by where they are located within the uterus:

  • Subserosal fibroids project to the outside of the uterus;
  • Submucosal fibroids project into the uterine cavity;
  • Intramural fibroids grow in the muscle portion of the uterine wall. Intramural fibroids are further broken down by location:
    • Anterior intramural fibroids grow in the front part of the uterus;
    • Posterior intramural fibroids grow in the back of the uterus;
    • Fundal intramural fibroids grow in the upper part of the uterus.
Types of uterine fibroids: submucosal, subserosal, intramural, and cervical
Types of uterine fibroids: submucosal, subserosal, intramural, and cervical

Submucosal and intramural fibroids are the type of fibroids that are most associated with heavy bleeding. There is not much data on how exactly these types of fibroids cause bleeding but it is believed that they increase the surface area of the uterine lining as well as contribute to hormone disorders that result in the uterus not being able to contract and stop menstrual bleeding.

What Is Iron Deficiency Anemia?

50% of women who suffer from heavy bleeding as a side effect of fibroids experience anemia. Anemia is a condition where the red blood cells that contain iron-rich hemoglobin and carry oxygen throughout your body are diminished through blood loss. The red blood cells can not do their job without the iron contained in the hemoglobin so they start “stealing” iron from your iron storage centers. Your body becomes deficient in iron which can cause many health issues and nasty side effects.

What Are Anemia Symptoms?

Iron deficiency is one of the most well-known side effects of anemia. An iron deficiency interferes with many important bodily functions including vital organ function, chronic fatigue, compromised immune system, brittle nails, headaches, cognitive loss, hair loss, etc. If left untreated, anemia can lead to congestive heart failure, angina, arrhythmia, or heart attack. Anemia also can cause an unusual side effect called PICA which causes an individual to crave chalk or ice.

Video: Can Fibroids Cause Anemia? Anemia Symptoms: Craving Ice, Clay, Dirt, Or Chalk

Do Iron Pills Help With Anemia From Fibroids?

Because anemia side effects are triggered due to lack of iron, your doctor may recommend iron supplements. Taking additional iron can help to replenish your red blood cells and reduce anemia-related symptoms. Iron supplements are known to cause constipation but time-released capsules help alleviate it. With chronic heavy prolonged bleeding and acute anemia, iron supplements may not be an adequate treatment.

Can Fibroids Cause Low Hemoglobin?

Yes, uterine fibroids are known for creating heavy and persistent menstrual flow, which can lead to an excessive loss of blood. This blood loss can lead to anemia and, if left untreated, low hemoglobin levels.   A recent study in Japan highlighted three life-threatening cases of low hemoglobin caused by fibroids.  The study made the point that low hemoglobin is a rare and life-threatening complication that can result from ongoing anemia caused by uterine fibroids when patients do not seek timely medical attention.

How is Anemia From Fibroids Treated?

As the first course of action to treat anemia your doctor may recommend iron supplements, vitamins, and an iron-rich diet. Adding protein that is rich in iron such as beef, liver, chicken, and seafood rich in iron. Beans, green leafy vegetables such as spinach, oranges, apples, and pomegranate all contain much-needed iron. Proper nutrition allows you to replenish iron reserves in the body daily. However, it only makes up for the normal daily loss and may not be effective enough. If fibroids are the cause of heavy bleeding resulting in anemia the best course of action is to eliminate the fibroids.

To treat anemia, your doctor must address the underlying cause, which means that fibroids must be thoroughly treated.

While there are surgical options to treat fibroids, the Uterine Fibroid Embolization procedure (UFE) is non-surgical and does not require an overnight stay in the hospital. There are fewer risks, a short recovery time, and a high success rate. It will eliminate the heavy bleeding associated with fibroids and address the root cause of the anemia.

Advantages of Uterine Fibroid Embolization:

  • A safe and minimally invasive treatment method that does not require general anesthesia
  • The procedure is highly effective in more than 98.5% of cases;
  • There is an immediate improvement in symptoms after the procedure;
  • UFE is not surgery, it takes approximately 30-45 minutes;
  • There is a very low probability of any complications;
  • The uterus is not removed;
  • A woman can plan a pregnancy three months after the procedure.

If you suffer from fibroids and anemia, seek professional help, call Atlanta Fibroid Center® at 770-214-4600 or make an appointment online to learn more about UFE.