(BPT) - A new national survey reveals concerning gaps in women’s knowledge of Iron Deficiency Anemia (IDA), the most common type of anemia. The Get Iron Informed initiative helps to shed light on IDA, which impacts about one in five women of childbearing age.1
“The results of the survey show that far too many women do not know about or understand IDA,” said Dr. Stephanie Martin, OB-GYN. “This may help explain why IDA remains a frequently underdiagnosed and underappreciated women's health issue, even though it is the most common type of anemia.1,2 It’s important for women to understand what may increase their risk of developing IDA and talk to their doctor to get their iron levels checked.”
Survey uncovered gaps in knowledge about IDA
More than two in five women surveyed (42%) couldn’t identify any of the common IDA risk factors. Additionally, of women who reported having at least one risk factor for IDA*, only one-third (33%) thought they were actually at risk for the condition.
IDA is more common in women2
About 1 in 5 women of childbearing age has IDA. Women of childbearing age are at a higher risk for developing IDA due to blood loss during long or abnormally heavy menstrual periods, or bleeding fibroids,1 which are non-cancerous growths in or on the uterus.3 Blood loss during childbirth can also cause low levels of iron in women.1
Women with IDA experience a delay in diagnosis
The survey revealed that, on average, women with IDA experienced a delay in diagnosis of 3.9 years from the onset of symptoms. Of concern, many women also said they only visit a healthcare provider if symptoms are severe.
Half of women not diagnosed with IDA (51%) said they have experienced a potential IDA symptom in the last 12 months, but nearly a third (31%) haven’t discussed any of them with their healthcare provider.
Understand the risk factors and symptoms of IDA
IDA is caused by low iron levels, and people with pre-existing conditions may be at risk. In addition to women’s health conditions, gastrointestinal conditions like inflammatory bowel diseases, cancer, chronic kidney disease and heart failure may put people at increased risk for IDA.1
Mild to moderate IDA may have no signs or symptoms, but as it progresses, the condition may cause fatigue, cravings for ice, shortness of breath, chest pain, headaches, dizziness or brittle nails.1
Be your own health advocate
The survey findings suggest some women may be living with untreated IDA. If you or someone you know is living with risk factors or symptoms of IDA, it's important to talk to your healthcare provider. If you are diagnosed with IDA, your doctor can help develop a treatment plan that best suits your individual needs.
Visit GetIronInformed.com to learn more about IDA and to download a discussion guide to help talk about health concerns with your doctor.
[*]Defined as those 18-65 who have not been diagnosed with IDA by a healthcare professional and meet any of the following criteria: have been diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease, chronic kidney disease, cancer, heart failure, uterine fibroids, celiac disease, heavy uterine bleeding, endometriosis, malabsorption, or peptic ulcer disease, are currently pregnant, are 0-6 months post-partum, are currently breastfeeding, have had bariatric surgery, follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, or are Black/African American. The survey was conducted online between July 6 – 24, 2020 by The Harris Poll among 1,000 women age 18-65 and 200 women diagnosed with IDA.
 National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute website. Your Guide to Anemia. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/all-publications-and-resources/your-guide-anemia. Accessed December 2020.
 Jimenez K, Kulnigg-Dabsch S, Gasche C. Management of iron deficiency anemia. Gastroenterology & Hepatology. 2015;11(4):241-250.