Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Why does anemia affect so many women?"
I think I have anemia, just from reading symptoms online. I am 22. Why is this so prevalent among women?
First let me describe what anemia is and then I’ll explain how it relates to women and why it is so common. Generally speaking anemia is a low red blood cell count as defined by the hemoglobin level. Red blood cells are the cells in the blood that are responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body. The definition and diagnosis of anemia depends on the sex, age, and pregnancy status of a person. Children and pregnant women can have lower levels of hemoglobin than men and non-pregnant women and still be classified as normal. There are a number of causes of anemia ranging from genetic causes such as a condition called thalassemia to vitamin and mineral deficiencies to simply bleeding. This last cause is usually associated with what is termed iron-deficiency anemia and is by far the most common cause of anemia. Though iron deficiency anemia can be caused by getting enough iron in the diet or not being able to absorb iron from food, the most common cause is bleeding. Blood is the major store of iron in the body, and iron is essential to make the major oxygen carrying compound in the red blood cell. When iron stores are low the body is unable to make enough red blood cells and the condition that results is anemia. Young women are unique because they lose a significant amount of blood every month through their period (menses), which is obviously not something that affects men or children. Usually the solution is to increase the amount of iron in the diet of menstruating women to help build iron stores up. Pleas talk to your primary care physician, who can best evaluate your symptoms and discuss your options. Good luck!
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