hey you anemics...need your input

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Veteran Member

Date Joined Jan 2006
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   Posted 7/11/2008 8:03 AM (GMT -6)   
Let me start with..Yes, I have an appointment to see my GP, but I want some thoughts to have when talking to him.
I started iron supplements a while ago and they made a world of difference.  I could actually breathe better even.  My exhaustion seemed to be helped by the iron and more B12 injections.
My question is, does your head hurt very badly when you are low on iron?
I have a history of CHF issues in my family (Mom passed away and my brother had a heart attack recently).  Many of their early symptoms have been showing up for me.  My legs hurt a lot and my ankles are swelling badly to name the most noticeable.  They also had very bad headaches (mine knock me down to where I want to be in the dark with no sound).  With my office move, lots of cake orders, travelling and general stresses of life, I missed a lot of iron pills.  I was hoping that others had bad headaches when their iron dropped (not in an evil way!) so I would have that to tell my doc - maybe its not the heart thing.
Dx'd '90 (emergency rupture), symptoms ignored long before that, '03 fistulas and bad flagyl reactions, B12 weekly, Pentasa [until I surrender to the bigger meds]
I'm riding on the escalator of life....

Regular Member

Date Joined Jan 2006
Total Posts : 158
   Posted 7/11/2008 8:14 AM (GMT -6)   
I didn't notice an increase in headaches even when my anemia was at it's worst. I do notice that I get horrible headaches when I get dehydrated from the D. I guess everyone is different though. Do your headaches decrease when you get back on your regular dose of iron?

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Date Joined Jan 2005
Total Posts : 8616
   Posted 7/11/2008 8:49 AM (GMT -6)   
They type of headache you describe warrants (at minimum) an immediate telephone call to your family doctor. We are actually urged to seek immediate medical attention (ER) when you experience a headache like that which hasn't been previously dx'd. If you ignore stroke symptoms you will likely pay dearly for waiting.

I hope its something easily managed. As a long time headache sufferer (age 12 - 47) I sure feel for you. But I don't remember having worse headaches while anemic. . . .although it has been a long time ago for me.


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Regular Member

Date Joined Dec 2006
Total Posts : 45
   Posted 7/11/2008 4:32 PM (GMT -6)   
Have you had a CBC done lately?  How low is your hemoglobin?  I was having crushing headaches every day, usually in the afternoon, but I thought it was just stress from my job.  Then they ran my CBC and my hemoglobin was at 8.9, hematocrit around 25.  I was having some other issues at the time, so they decided to transfuse me because they thought the anemia was causing all the problems (turns out it wasn't, but that's another story, for another day!).  Long story short, they gave me 2 units of hemoglobin and brought me up to about a 10.5, and my headaches were gone, immediately that day, and haven't come back since.  So yes, I would say that the anemia can defintely cause headaches if it's severe enough.  Your brain isn't getting all the oxygen it needs when your red blood cells are depleted! 
28 year old female diagnosed with Crohn's. Currently taking Pentasa 1gm/day.

map lady
Regular Member

Date Joined Feb 2008
Total Posts : 154
   Posted 7/11/2008 4:49 PM (GMT -6)   

Hi Habs, sorry about all the misery your body is going through, hope your doctor can help!

I have had headache problems ever since I was in kindergarden, and after the past few years of keeping close track of what gives me a headache, I have a couple suggestions of what it might be:

Headache with Leg Pain:  Dehydration

Even if you are drinking what seems like a lot of water, medication, a hot environment, or very low humidity can cause you to need extra water.  Try drinking at least 64oz of water per day.  I have to drink 96oz of water per day whenever the humidity is too low indoors, it's nuts.

Headache with  Light Sensitivity:  Sinus Headache

If you've had any trouble with allergies, you may be having sinus headaches.  Sinus headaches can also be caused by being indoors in over-air-conditioned buildings for long periods of time. As the building air is recirculated repeatedly, it loses its humidity, and absorbs the moisture in your nasal passages and sinuses as you breathe it in, causing dry and painful sinus passages.  The sinus passages can increase pain and pressure near the eye area, especially above the eyebrow, and cause light sensitivity in some cases.  In addition to keeping hydrated, a saline nose spray can instantly reduce headache pain and light sensitivity that is being caused by dry sinuses.
You may also have swelling in your sinuses that is exacerbated by something such as wearing glasses.  The pressure of glasses resting on your cheeks (right on the maxillary sinuses!) or pressing on the sides of your nose may aggravate any existing sinus discomfort and cause an acute sinus headache.  If you have headaches that start in the morning and get worse as the day goes on, and you wear glasses, it's very possible that this indicates headaches caused by glasses pressing on your sinuses.  Try going without your glasses for the first few hours of the day when you get a day off, and see if you finally don't have a headache, you might be surprised!
Headache with Light AND Sound Sensitivity:  Migraine
While there are many things that can cause a migraine, the one thing you can try while waiting to see the doctor is to track which foods you eat and see if any of your foods may be causing a migraine.  Check to see if you get a bad headache on days where you eat things like chocolate, caffeine, red wine, sulfites, and monosodium glutamate, as these are the most common migraine-inducing items.  Sulfites are used in meat seasonings, so if you are buying any pre-cooked or pre-flavored meat products, chances are that they contain sulfites.  It will say so on the ingredients.  Monosodium glutamate is a flavoring agent found in everything from cheetos to barbecue sauce to salad dressing, found in virtually all soups, and in pretty much all canned and boxed food products and ready-to-cook products.  It will say so on the ingredients if a product contains it (they used to be able to call it "spices", it's easier to find now).  You may have also developed a food allergy or intolerance to something like fish or eggs that is causing a headache after you eat them, so tracking which foods you eat can be a big help in finding a pattern where eating a certain food makes a really bad headache that day.
There are other causes of migraines, which your doctor should check into as long as you are going to be in the office for a visit.  Migraines caused by something other than food can be somewhat relieved with medications, but there isn't really a cure for migraines.
I hope it turns out to be one of the first 2 categories causing your bad headaches, since those aren't really scary and are pretty easy to fix.  Migraines would suck but can usually be fixed by avoiding certain foods, and migraine medications can help to make the migraines hurt less.  I certainly hope you aren't having any heart problems, but lots of common things could be causing the symptoms you are having, so I hope you are well and that you start having less headaches soon :)

Veteran Member

Date Joined Mar 2006
Total Posts : 2673
   Posted 7/11/2008 5:57 PM (GMT -6)   
I totally get the breathing better part. When I was anemic I had a lot of trouble breathing, when just barely walking around my house. I felt a lot better as I got my iron back up.

Yes, I also remember headaches. I also get migraines though, so it's something I couldn't tell why I was getting them.
Diagnosed with Crohn's Disease 2/06 after sever GI bleed. Has been suffering since 1998. History of rectal fistula and gallbladder removal. Currently taking Prednisone: tapered to 5 mg *eek*, Asacol, Questran, Toprol XL (for high blood pressure).

Veteran Member

Date Joined Dec 2007
Total Posts : 2113
   Posted 7/11/2008 9:26 PM (GMT -6)   
I don't get headaches but definetly recognize the breathing thing. It reminds me to take the iron pills.

Regular Member

Date Joined Feb 2008
Total Posts : 493
   Posted 7/11/2008 9:45 PM (GMT -6)   
I get terrible headaches when very anemic. And I get terrible headaches from dehydration. Usually they're linked b/c of D. From the suggestions on this forum. I've been trying to respond earlier with tylenol (like as soon as I feel a headache coming on) and to drink more. Also, with a lot of D, I realized I needed more snacks. Last night, an 11:30pm snack of tea and toast followed by tylenol got rid of a headache. Today it was excedrin (the tension headache one without the aspirin as suggested on this board), a cup of mint tea, and a lot of water. It is difficult!
23 years with moderate Crohn's/colitis; fistulizing crohn's; pentasa, just started humira

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