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There are many women’s health issues that go misdiagnosed or completely undiagnosed despite how common they are. One of those is iron deficiency anemia, which can be harmful — or even deadly — if it isn’t treated in time.

This is the most recognized form of anemia, and it affects approximately one out of every five women who are of childbearing age.

Why do so many develop iron deficiency anemia?

Iron deficiency anemia, or IDA for short, is more common after significant blood loss, e.g., during childbirth, after a heavy menstrual period or from bleeding cysts or fibroids.

What happens when the body doesn’t have enough iron?

When the body lacks sufficient iron, it can lead to serious problems for a woman. She may have chronic headaches, shortness of breath, cravings for ice, extreme fatigue, chest pain, dizziness and other symptoms.

Iron deficiency can also lead to tongue swelling, cold hands and feet, irregular heartbeat and other significant symptoms. In pregnant women, iron deficiency anemia may lead to pregnancy complications, including  prematurely giving birth. For this reason, most women who hope to become pregnant or who are already pregnant take iron supplements.

What happens if IDA isn’t treated?

In severe cases, IDA can lead to an enlarged heart and heart failure. The heart has to work harder to get oxygen to the rest of the body, which puts an immense strain on it over time.

IDA can be diagnosed with a simple blood test. If a medical provider does not order this test or doesn’t provide treatment options due to a misdiagnosis, then a patient who is injured may have a malpractice claim.