As if the fatigue and brain fog aren't bad enough, there are several equally annoying physical signs of iron-deficiency anemia that are often overlooked. The good news: anemia can usually be treated easily with an iron supplement. But if you haven't yet been diagnosed, or are waiting for your ferritin levels to build up, the symptoms can be a real downer in the meantime.
Anemia is a common side effect of endometriosis, as years of heavy blood loss can deplete iron levels. After living with extremely low iron for years before being diagnosed with anemia and stage II endometriosis, I realized that many of the symptoms I was experiencing (and attributing to other health problems) were actually caused by my iron-deficiency. Since my diagnosis, I've had laparoscopic surgery and now take an iron supplement twice a day. Thankfully, my anemia symptoms have almost disappeared.
This is in no way an exhaustive list of anemia symptoms; these are simply some of the most annoying effects of iron deficiency that I've personally experienced and some tips for living well while anemic.
1. Angular Cheilitis
2. Difficulty Breathing
Like most of these symptoms, I originally thought the problem was stemming from something other than anemia. When my doctor suggested that I may have exercise-induced asthma and gave me an inhaler to use on my runs, I thought the problem was solved. But no matter how hard I trained or how much albuterol I inhaled, I couldn't run more than a couple blocks before my lungs would give out.
Since recovering from anemia, my lung capacity has improved by leaps and bounds. I can now run an entire 5K without stopping to catch my breath, something I couldn't even dream of when I was anemic. Unfortunately, there's no short-term solution for this problem. Less intense cardiovascular activity, like walking or biking, is the best way to maintain your fitness level until you can breathe easy again.
Another limiting factor in my exercise routine was my abnormally fast heart rate. Walking and biking, along with activities like yoga, became my best friend when running caused my heart rate to skyrocket. As a personal trainer, I often used heart rate to gauge my clients' exercise intensity, but I found that I couldn't use the same strategy for myself. You still might find it helpful to invest in a good quality heart rate monitor to keep tabs on your tachycardia if this is a symptom you experience.
4. Cold Extremities
If you work at a computer, gloves might not be practical. But running warm water over your hands every so often can keep the stiffness from interfering with typing, knitting or anything else requiring the use of your fingers. When outside or driving, I always keep a pair of mittens handy - they'll keep your hands warmer than gloves. You can also try Warm Skin All Weather Guard: Raynaud’s sufferers swear by it.
5. Static, Dry Hair
I'm a chronically dry person, so I don't expect this problem to ever go away entirely. But when I was anemic, my hair could power the whole neighborhood with the electricity it created, and I couldn't pet my dog without electrocuting both of us.
Static is especially problematic in the extra dry winter months. A quality leave-in conditioner is an anemic girl's best friend. And if all else fails, shave your head (it worked for me!).