Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Iron-Deficiency Anemia

Be prepared to discuss causes, symptoms and treatments for iron-deficiency anemia

Doctor discussing anemia treatment with patient.

Anemia is a condition that occurs where a person does not have enough red blood cells or enough healthy red blood cells. Because red blood cells transport oxygen throughout the body, and oxygen is a crucial component of energy production, people experiencing anemia often feel physically and mentally fatigued. Other symptoms can include pale skin, irregular heartbeats, shortness of breath, feeling lightheaded and—in severe cases—chest pain. Symptoms are usually mild to begin with and worsen over time.

There are numerous types of anemia, but iron-deficiency anemia is the most prevalent. The most common cause of iron deficiency anemia is blood loss, which can be the result of a serious health condition such as gastrointestinal bleeding, kidney disease or cancer. It can also be the result of poor iron absorption or a lack of iron in the diet. To effectively treat iron-deficiency anemia, you and your healthcare provider must identify the cause.

Questions to ask your doctor

The following list of questions can help you have a better conversation with your doctor, help you better understand your condition and help put you on the path to feeling better.

  • What are my iron levels?
  • What is causing my iron deficiency?
  • What are the short-term and long-term health risks of iron-deficiency anemia?
  • Am I deficient in any other vitamins or nutrients?
  • What foods should I be eating to improve my iron levels?
  • Are there foods I should avoid?
  • Should I be taking iron supplements?
  • Do I need other treatments beyond iron supplementation?
  • How do I prevent iron-deficiency anemia from happening again?

In addition to this list of questions, write down a list of the symptoms you are experiencing; a timeline of when your symptoms started or worsened; a list of any prescriptions, vitamins or supplements you are taking; and any additional questions or concerns you have. The more information you can give your doctor, the better.

Tips for a better doctor appointment

Two things you can do to have a productive appointment with any healthcare professional, whether it is your primary doctor, your dentist or a specialist: Be honest and be curious.

Being honest with your doctor means being upfront about your habits, both healthy and unhealthy. Remember, your healthcare provider is not there to judge you—he or she is there to help you understand and improve your health. Having accurate information about your lifestyle and habits will make it easier for your healthcare provider to make an accurate diagnosis and prescribe an effective treatment.

Being curious means listening, asking questions and writing down the things you will need to remember later. If something is unclear or confusing, ask for clarification. Your goal should be to leave the appointment with the information you need to take care of yourself.

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