Low iron……What next?
So you’ve read about the signs and symptoms of low iron, but what are the options for treating it?
As mentioned treatment can by oral tablets, diet, injections and even blood transfusions. Oral tablets are the most readily available treatment, that can be taken to increase the iron levels at a steady rate over a period of time. However, there are situations where this is neither possible nor desirable and this is where the option of an iron infusion might be considered.
Why might I need an infusion?
There are a number of reasons why oral medication and diet might not the ideal form of treatment. They include:
- Unable to tolerate oral tablets
- Difficulty in iron absorption from the gut
- The need for a rapid increase in iron
- Have chronic renal or heart conditions
What happens during an infusion?
The process is relatively simple and usually takes between 30-40 minutes.
On the day of your infusion
- You can eat prior to the infusion and take any regular medication – you do not need to fast
- You can drive to and from the appointment on the day of your infusion
- You will receive an explanation of the why you are having the procedure and what will happen
- You must consent to the procedure – you will need to sign a form to say that you understand what will happen and the potential risks and side effects
- Baseline observations – your blood pressure, heart rate and temperature will be taken
- Cannulation - a small needle is inserted into the vein and this is where the iron is infused
- During the infusion a small bag of fluids with the iron mixed in will be infused. You will have some observations taken at certain points during this process.
- Post –infusion observations, after the infusion you will be monitored and have observations taken. You will need to wait for a short period after the infusion has ended to ensure that you are well enough before you leave.
- After your infusion your doctor will tell you when you need to come back to have your blood levels checked
What are the risks?
The main risks are a small chance of being allergic to the IV infusion. If there is an allergic reaction you will be given medication to counteract these symptoms. There is a very small risk that in certain individuals this allergy can be life threating; whilst this is very rare, staff and medications are on hand to deal with this or to be transferred to hospital for onward care. There may be some pain
Some people are worried about the risk of skin staining – this is also a possibility during the infusion process, and is again very rare. In the rare instance that staining occurs, it is usually irreversible. Every step is taken to minimise the chances of this occurring.
Whilst you can have infusions during pregnancy, they should be avoided in the first trimester, so it is important to discuss with your doctor whether you are/might be pregnant before the infusion.
What are the most common side effects?
The most common side effects are listed below . It is not an exhaustive list but can include
Fast/slow heart rate, transient changes in blood pressure
Slight changes in temperature
Changes in bowel habit
Shortness of breath
In very rare cases
You will be monitored whilst having the infusion; if you experience any of the above symptoms you should also make staff aware. Many of these side effects will settle with simple measures and usually subside after 1 or 2 days.
What do I do?
Many people feel much better after an iron infusion, but naturally they have many questions. Please feel free to book an appointment with one of our doctors to see whether this is a suitable option for you.