Are you feeling tired? No, not just tired, EXHAUSTED. How about muscle aches too? When you brush your hair, does it hurt to raise your arm up when pulling the brush through? Are you sitting on your couch, looking around your house, wondering when you stopped being a clean, tidy person? Of course you still want the floors to be vacuumed and mopped and you still hate letting dishes sit in the sink, but for some reason you’ve lost all of your get up and go. Now you’re also feeling inadequate. But wait, it gets worse. Are you having problems concentrating? I like to call this one “brain fog”.
Of course any one symptom, combination of symptoms or even all of them and more could mean any number of things. For me, a longtime sufferer of acute anemia, these symptoms mean that I’ve waited way too long before getting my iron and hemoglobin levels checked. Damn! I said I’d never let this happen again.
Now, in my own defense, sometimes the symptoms sneak up on me. Everyone feels tired and even fatigued here and there. Maybe the sleep schedule has been out of whack or maybe the diet hasn’t been as healthy as it should be. It can be very hard to pinpoint the cause of why we feel differently. No one wants to be an alarmist and go running to the doctor each time we’re feeling a bit “off.” However, in my case, I should know better.
Several years ago, I took myself to the doctor after noticing that I was out of breath after even light exertion. The doctor took one look at my paler than normal skin, (and that’s sayin somethin, as my normal color can only be described as pasty), and sent me right down to the lab to have my blood drawn. There was no leaving his office on my own that day. Before I knew it, I was in an ambulance headed to the hospital. My hemoglobin levels were so low, (I think a 4, If I remember correctly), and I needed an immediate transfusion. Not fun. No, not fun at all.
From then on, we’ve come to realize that I have some absorption issues, which means that I don’t absorb the iron from my food, therefore my body can’t produce enough red blood cells. For someone who loves leafy greens and also enjoys a good steak, this came as a surprise. I’m lucky though. I live during a time when modern medicine has a way to fix this.
At first I tried supplements, but not only was this upsetting to my digestive symptom, but I still wasn’t getting enough iron. My hematologist decided that I need intravenous iron therapy. This is a very common treatment for chemotherapy patients who become anemic during their cancer treatments. The IV iron worked!! It’s not a quick fix, as if I’m tap dancing my way out of the doctor’s office, but after receiving the iron intravenously, my hemoglobin levels gradually rise and I feel better within a couple of days, sometimes even sooner.
I’ve now been on a regular schedule of monitoring my iron levels and then intravenous iron therapy for years. I go to the lab to have my levels checked about every 2 to 3 months and then if I need some iron, I can get one dose and all is well. However, life gets busy and sometimes I don’t stay on top of things and that’s when my levels don’t get checked regularly and drop way too low. When I let that happen, I end up going to the doctor 1 to 2 times per week for 5 total doses of iron. I get angry with myself when that happens. Stupid me.
I’ve learned that anemia is not uncommon in women. I think that my situation may be considered a bit extreme, but even being at the low side of normal, which can be very common in women especially, can still cause the same symptoms. Who wants to feel tired all of the time? Not me!!! I want the pep in my step. Life is a whole lot more fun with that pep. So, get it checked ladies. Hopefully you’re tired because you’re having so much fun being a social butterfly with a great group of gals and your’e just not getting enough sleep. But, it’s worth one doctor appointment so that you can be pro-active regarding your health and keep living life to the fullest. WOOP WOOP! (hands in the air)