Last November, while sitting at my computer keyboard typing away, I suddenly heard a loud, audible ‘Bang! Snap!’ and was immediately overcome by searing, burning pain in my left hand. This pain shot through my wrist, down into my hand, across the back of my hand and all the way up my arm, into my shoulder. Instantly, my thumb went numb – and what wasn’t numb, hurt horribly—and I mean HURT! It also ceased to function.
After dragging my sad hand around for a week or two -or four- with no improvement (I come from tough stock) I finally decided this was a task for my MD. After putting me through the paces: ‘Try to move this way. Now try to move that way…’ he diagnosed me with a Snuff Box injury. Say What?
I’d never heard of such a thing and he didn’t seem at all interested in elaborating, so I left with a spiffy, high-tech brace slapped on my injured paw and a referral to Physical Therapy. Thus began my Odyssey.
For months, I made every single Physical Therapy appointment without fail and was blessed with a marvelous, young and exceedingly gifted Physical Therapist. I went 3 times per week. I did my Contrast Baths each night exactly as prescribed. I did my exercises religiously… AND NOTHING WORKED. No improvement whatsoever. The pain continued unabated, my hand would not and could not function and the danged brace was ruining everything I owned; Velcro and pets, clothing, bed linen and hair just don’t get along.
Finally, I’d used up all my allotted PT sessions -and was turned out as a dismal failure. Diagnosed with ruptured tendons and ligaments that then compressed nerves, I seemed doomed to be broken all the rest of my days.
Fast forward to a visit to my Naturopath that was actually supposed to be about my Mom. Finishing the appointment, as she walked us to the door, she asked about my hand and how healing was coming along. Upon telling her that NO healing had occurred, and sharing my frustration and grief over the sorry situation, I could see a light go off over her head and then she spoke the fateful words that would set me free: ‘You know Carrie, you’ve always had anemia issues. Are you taking iron supplements? Wounds won’t heal without iron, ya know…’
Holy Crap. How could I forget this??? NO, I hadn’t been taking iron since hitting Menopause and ceasing to have periods – because I’d always been warned that iron will store and can cause toxicity issues in older women.
That night I went home with a natural iron supplement in my healthy hand and started to take it regularly. Within THREE days, healing started. And started fast.
Tissues require oxygenated blood to heal themselves. If you’re anemic, your blood is lacking oxygen. This means greatly diminished healing capacity!
I sit here typing now with a happy thumb that functions – and only a bit of pain that hits occasionally if I forget and use my left hand too vigorously. I shudder to think where I’d be now had my ND not pointed me in the right direction! Why did no one else know of the anemia-wound healing connection or think to follow that line of inquiry while trying to help me?
Truth be told, for as common as anemia is, it is often overlooked – especially in Menopausal women. This is not a good thing! But also, the flipside needs to be addressed: iron DOES store and with no monthly menstruation, we cease losing as much of it as we did in our earlier years. Caution is the name of the game when supplementing on our own but if we’re older and anemic, the chance of it being caught during a routine visit with the Dr. is rather slim to none- unless symptoms have become quite pronounced.
Just what are the symptoms of iron deficiency anemia in older women?
Here’s the basic list:
Slow healing wounds
Brittle nails and hair loss
Mouth sores that are unexplained
General fatigue and weakness
Sensitivity to cold
Headaches that are unexplained
Dizziness and lightheadedness
Tongue tenderness and/or swelling
Shortness of breath
Restless leg syndrome (though Magnesium deficiency tends to be the more common cause of this condition)
Strange cravings for things like dirt
Just a side note here: a lot of the above mentioned symptoms are often written off as ‘normal’ signs of aging, hypothyroidism or hormone imbalance. Get tested for anemia and rule it out!
What causes anemia? There are several types: B12 deficiency, B6 deficiency, genetics (think Pernicious Anemia and Sickle Cell) low ferritin stores and iron deficiency anemia- which we will focus on today. Please be sure to take the necessary steps to make certain you are diagnosed with the correct cause/type of your anemia, otherwise you will only continue to get worse.
Things to ponder:
Did you experience heavy menstruation as you moved through the tailend of Peri menopause?
Did you have heavy periods often or did you bleed heavily due to fibroids?
Do you have colon conditions like Celiac Disease/IBS or Crohn’s Disease or do you suffer with stomach ulcers?
Are you a vegetarian or do you have a history of being one?
Do you supplement with Vitamin C, B12 and B6? If not, this could be an issue, especially as we age.
Do you rely on antacids regularly?
Do you consume a low iron diet? (Drink a lot of black tea, wine or coffee/eat a lot of tofu, sweet potatoes, whole grains, dairy or eggs, take lot of calcium, zinc or magnesium. There are many foods and food groups that negatively impact one’s ability to absorb and store iron. Even certain herbs and nuts inhibit iron absorption.)
Not being anemic in our Midlife years can be more complicated than we realize but can have a huge impact on the wellness and vitality of our Golden Years.
Not only does iron deficiency impact our beauty: dull skin and hair, brittle nails and greatly slowed wound healing, it also contributes to bone degeneration which leads to osteoporosis and tooth loss, and can also contribute to the post-Menopause loss of libido we worry about negatively impacting our intimate relationships.
My Now Healed left hand and I urge you to talk with your MD/ND about this issue during your next visit and we also want to remind you: high doses of synthetic iron can be very constipating! Proceed carefully.
With that said though, this is one instance where ‘Ruling with an Iron Fist’ just might make you feel grand!
Copyright 2018 Carrie E. Pierce all rights reserved
Health and Beauty has been Carrie E. Pierce’s career focus for over 28 years.
Throughout her career, Carrie has served as: Guest and Corporate Makeup Artist for numerous major, international cosmetic companies and as a Hollywood film, TV and special effects makeup artist.
She’s provided skin care and makeup services for the fashion industry, as well as restorative make up procedures for burn and scar patients, cancer patients, domestic violence survivors and women suffering with self-esteem issues.
Carrie is a licensed Aesthetician, Certified Color Analyst, Menopause Skin Care Specialist, Author and Co Host of a nationally syndicated radio show.
Together with Life Coach Kris Cavanaugh Castro, Carrie has co created a coaching program created especially for Midlife women- and the men who love them. Called ‘Making Peace With Menopause’ this program covers the myriad health, beauty, emotional, spiritual and mental aspects of the Menopause journey.
It’s Carrie’s mission and her passion to help women be the best they can be – especially as they move through Midlife!