Understanding anemia and how it is related to fibroids

What is Anemia?

Anemia is a condition when your body doesn’t have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen from the lungs to different parts of the body, or there is a shortage of iron-rich protein called hemoglobin (Hb).

Anemia can be caused by three main reasons:

  • Loss of blood
  • Decreased or faulty production of red blood cells
  • Destruction of red blood cells

You may experience Iron deficiency anemia as your body attempts to use your iron stores to make more hemoglobin that can carry oxygen to supply to various body cells. In this process, your iron store levels may deplete to the point that you may suffer from iron deficient anemia.

Anemia comes in a few different forms:

  • Iron deficiency anemia: This is the most common type of anemia which is characterized by the overall decrease in the number of Red Blood Cells (RBCs) and the level of hemoglobin.
  • Pernicious anemia This anemia occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough intrinsic factor, a type of protein that binds with vitamin B12 for its easy absorption in the small intestine. Without sufficient amount of intrinsic factor, the body can’t produce an optimum amount of RBCs. [1]
  • Hemolytic anemia: This condition occurs when RBCs die before their normal lifespan of four months or are destroyed prematurely. The bone marrow isn’t able to produce enough RBCs to replenish the lost ones, decreasing the blood’s capacity to carry oxygen.1
  • Thalassemia: The condition is characterized when the body produces an abnormal form of hemoglobin that causes premature destruction of RBCs. 1
  • Aplastic anemia: This rare form of anemia is caused due to the decrease in normal levels of RBCs, White Blood Cells (WBCs) and Platelets in the blood. 1

Symptoms and warning signs of iron deficiency anemia are:

  • Fatigue and loss of energy
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Unusually rapid heart beat
  • Pale or yellow skin
  • Cold hands and feet

How is Anemia Diagnosed?

A doctor will diagnose anemia based on your medical and family histories, a physical exam, and results from tests such as a complete blood count (CBC). It’s important to note any and all medications you may be taking, which may affect your CBC. You may also be asked what your diet is like, because people who are vegan or are on various diets may develop a deficiency from not eating enough iron-rich foods.

Because anemia doesn’t always cause symptoms, your doctor may find out you have it while checking for another condition.

What Does a CBC Measure?

A complete blood count checks your hemoglobin and hematocrit levels. Hemoglobin is a protein containing that is located within the red blood cells. Hemoglobin carries oxygen throughout the body. On the other hand, hematocrit measures how many red blood cells there are in your blood. If the CBC notices a low level of hemoglobin or hematocrit in your system, this could be a sign of anemia. A CBC test also tests the number of red and white blood cells, as well as your platelets in your blood. This is important to rule out any other disorders or infections that could signify a different condition.[2]

The mean corpuscular volume (MCV) is another aspect that CBC tests.[3] This can indicate what type of anemia you may have and what the root cause of your condition is from. There are many different kinds of exams that can be used to test for anemia.

During a CBC, hemoglobin levels, both white and red blood cells, as well as platelets are measured. These numbers can help determine if fibroids is the cause of anemia.

Can Uterine Fibroids Cause Anemia?

In many cases, uterine fibroids can cause heavy, prolonged periods or bleeding between menstrual cycles. Specifically, different kind of fibroids may cause more bleeding than others.

Submucosal fibroids located within the uterine lining can cause severe bleeding by increasing the area of the lining and thus the flow of menstrual cycles. Moreover, fibroids lying within the uterine muscle (intramural fibroids) may increase blood flow to the uterus, thus affecting its ability to control blood and increase the size of the uterine cavity; all these factors collectively result in increased menstrual flow. This increased bleeding can result in the formation of clots in some women and they may pass very large blood clots with their flow.

The Impact of Heavy Bleeding

Due to heavy bleeding, the person may have a shortage of iron as the red blood cells contain iron which is drained out of the body with blood loss. Blood is created in the bone marrow of the body, and chronic bleeding due to your uterine fibroids can result in the reduced bone marrow response, thereby further worsening the symptoms of anemia for the patient. Any amount of bleeding in women with absent iron stores will result in anemia. Some women have not exhibited any symptoms; however, some women will feel constantly tired or light-headed. This can impact both work and personal life. Anemia can make getting out of bed in the morning nearly impossible; therefore, it’s important to get checked out if your periods are heavy or lengthy.

Many women don’t even realize that they have heavy periods because they think that’s their “normal”. It’s vital to track your period, so you can notice the length and any changes throughout your menstrual cycle. Bleeding between periods is another sign that you may have fibroids. An abnormal period is characterized as any period lasting over 10 days a month.

Other Reasons for Heavy Periods

Heavy menstrual bleeding can also be a result of other causes like hormonal imbalance, dysfunction of ovaries, uterine polyps, polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis, adenomyosis, anti-inflammatory medications, etc. So, the exact cause of anemia must be ascertained before opting for a treatment method.

How to Treat Anemia Caused by Uterine Fibroids

Our uterine fibroid specialists provide treatment for uterine fibroids with a procedure known as Uterine Fibroid Embolization or UFE. This is performed by injecting tiny particles called embolic agents into your arteries that feed your uterine fibroids. You can read more about UFE by clicking HERE.

The interventional radiologists at our treatment centers constantly implement advanced, minimally invasive techniques to improve patient outcomes. Our doctors use a personalized care approach that encompasses the individual needs of each patient.

If you think that your anemia may be due to your uterine fibroids, you can schedule an online consultation with our specialists or simply call us at 855.615.2555.


Check out our second installment of our “Ask the Doctor” series that focuses on anemia HERE.



[1] https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/understanding-anemia-basics#1

[2] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anemia/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20351366

[3] https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/2085770-overview