Recognizing Signs, Connections, and Treatment Options
Iron is an essential mineral found in our body that plays a critical role in various bodily functions. It is responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body and aiding in the production of energy. However, as women age and go through menopause, the risk of developing low iron levels increases. In this article, we will explore the signs of low iron after the age of 40, the signs of menopause and the connection between low iron and menopause. We will also look at the available treatment options for low iron, including Accrufer® (ferric maltol). Traditional oral irons can make most patients feel worse, not better. ACCRUFeR is an FDA-approved oral iron that's both tolerable and effective.
Signs of Low Iron after the Age of 40
Feeling constantly tired and lacking energy is a common symptom of low iron. The body requires iron to produce hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to different organs and tissues. When iron levels are low, the body struggles to efficiently transport oxygen, leading to fatigue.
2. Pale Skin
Iron is crucial for the production of red blood cells, and low iron levels can result in decreased red blood cell production. Consequently, the skin may appear pale or have a whitish tint.
3. Hair Loss
Iron deficiency can disrupt the normal hair growth cycle. People with low iron levels may experience excessive hair shedding, leading to thinning hair and even hair loss.
4. Brittle Nails
Iron deficiency can cause nail abnormalities, including brittle, fragile and spoon-shaped nails. Individuals with low iron levels may notice their nails becoming more susceptible to breakage and exhibiting unusual shapes.
5. Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is a condition characterized by an uncontrollable urge to move the legs, usually accompanied by an uncomfortable sensation. Research suggests that low iron levels may contribute to the development or worsening of RLS symptoms.
Signs of Menopause
1. Hot Flashes
The most well-known symptom of menopause is hot flashes. These sudden feelings of intense heat are often accompanied by sweating, rapid heartbeat and flushed skin.
2. Night Sweats
Similar to hot flashes, night sweats are characterized by excessive sweating during sleep, leading to heightened discomfort and interrupted sleep patterns.
3. Mood Swings
Hormonal changes during menopause can cause mood swings, irritability and increased feelings of anxiety or sadness.
4. Vaginal Dryness
Declining estrogen levels during menopause can lead to vaginal dryness, causing discomfort, itching and pain during intercourse.
Many women experience difficulties falling or staying asleep during menopause. Hormonal fluctuations and underlying psychological factors may contribute to disrupted sleep patterns.
Connection Between Low Iron and Menopause
Menopause and low iron levels are interconnected due to the changes that occur in a woman's body during this natural phase of life. As women age and enter menopause, their estrogen levels decline. Estrogen plays a vital role in maintaining iron levels by regulating the production and absorption of iron in the body. Therefore, the decreased levels of estrogen during menopause can disrupt iron regulation, potentially leading to low iron levels.
Moreover, heavy menstrual bleeding, commonly experienced by women approaching menopause, can also lead to iron deficiency. Prolonged or excessive menstrual bleeding can deplete the body's iron stores, putting women at a higher risk of developing low iron levels.
Treatment Options for Low Iron
If you suspect low iron levels, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional for accurate diagnosis and treatment. A doctor may conduct a blood test to measure iron levels and determine the appropriate course of action. Treatment options for low iron may include:
- Iron Supplements: Iron supplements are a common treatment for low iron. They are available over-the-counter or as prescription medications and can help restore iron levels to a healthy range.
- Dietary Changes: Increasing the consumption of iron-rich foods can help boost iron levels naturally. Foods such as lean red meat, spinach, lentils, fortified cereals and tofu are excellent sources of dietary iron.
- Vitamin C: Consuming vitamin C-rich foods or taking vitamin C supplements can enhance the absorption of iron from plant-based foods. Pairing iron-rich foods with foods high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, strawberries and bell peppers, can optimize iron absorption.
- Accrufer®: Accrufer® (ferric maltol) is a prescription medication that has recently become available to help treat low iron. The advantage of Accrufer lies in its ability to provide high iron absorption, as it bypasses the upper gastrointestinal tract and directly releases iron into the bloodstream. This mechanism helps overcome the common side effects associated with traditional iron supplements, such as constipation and gastrointestinal discomfort.
Both low iron levels and menopause can significantly impact a woman's quality of life after the age of 40. Recognizing the signs of low iron and understanding the signs of menopause are essential for timely diagnosis and appropriate management. Remember to consult with a healthcare professional to discuss available treatment options and determine the most suitable approach to address low iron levels.