Iron Infusions

Do you suffer from low iron?

If you’re anaemic (a condition caused by a lack of haemoglobin/red blood cells in the blood) or have trouble tolerating iron supplements, you could benefit from an iron infusion. An iron infusion delivers iron directly into the bloodstream through a vein.  

Iron is an essential mineral assisting the body to carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body, amongst other  important functions. There are risks and benefits to having an iron infusion, and your doctor can explain these to you at a consultation.

An iron deficiency is often treatable with simple dietary changes or with the addition of a daily supplement until the levels are back to a healthy range. In more severe cases though, an iron infusion might be recommended by your GP to give you a faster, more immediate result. 

What is Iron and why do we need it?

Iron is essential for the body to make haemoglobin (Hb), a pigment that makes red blood cells red. When the amount of iron in the body gets too low, the haemoglobin levels fall below normal. This is known as iron deficiency anaemia. Haemoglobin is made from iron which is ingested through red meat, seafood and leafy greens.  Healthy levels of iron for a female are 12 g/dl which varies for those who are pregnant or breastfeeding so it’s important if you’re an expectant mother that you regularly have your iron levels checked with a simple blood test.

Haemoglobin is very important as it carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. If your haemoglobin or iron levels are low this may make you feel tired and not able to carry out your everyday activities.

As women lose blood while menstruating, they are more susceptible than men of becoming anaemic.

What are the symptoms of iron deficiency and who is at risk?

Symptoms can vary in degree ranging from tiredness and slight dizzy spells to more serious cases which lead to chronic fatigue, shortness of breath, inflammation, and severe headaches.

Iron deficiency symptoms include:

  • Paleness
  • Tiredness
  • Low energy
  • Feeling cold
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Infections due to low immunity

People who are at the highest risk of iron deficiency include females due to monthly periods and childbirth, people with kidney failure, those who are taking blood-thinning medication and those who have trouble absorbing iron due to biological factors.

Iron deficiency treatments:

There are three main recommendations to counter iron deficiency:

  • Improving diet through eating foods high in iron (red meat, eggs, tuna, seafood, peanut butter, iron-fortified foods)
  • Iron supplements – usually in the form of tablets or drinks
  • Intravenous (IV) Iron infusions

Choice of treatment comes down to the individual. Unfortunately some people simply cannot absorb enough iron from their food no matter what they eat. Further, some people are unable to tolerate iron supplements as they can cause stomach issues. Others may require a rapid increase in iron levels to avoid other health complications or due to a blood transfusion. An iron infusion is often the best choice in these circumstances.

What is an iron infusion?

An iron infusion is a straightforward procedure which takes approximately 30 minutes.

At the beginning of an iron infusion, a needle is placed into a vein, which means an iron infusion is administered intravenously. Next, the needle is attached to a drip containing iron mixed with saline. This fluid is slowly dripped into the vein and mixes with the blood in the body. 

As the iron combined with a saline solution mixes with the blood, it works to restore your iron levels up to a healthy range much faster than supplements or dietary changes.

The iron infusion replenishes iron stores, allowing the normal production of haemaglobin. 

Most patients notice symptoms (tiredness, dizziness and so on) improve within a few days with the full effect being more evident after a couple of weeks.

While each patient responds differently; symptoms of anaemia normally start to dissipate within a few days and improve over time. Further blood tests will reveal if another iron infusion is necessary or if the deficiency is manageable with diet and supplements.

Risks and side effects

The biggest risk with an iron infusion is that as it is administered directly to your blood stream, if an allergic reaction transpires this can often be severe.

This shouldn’t cause alarm because the risk of an allergic reaction is minimal and the healthcare professional administering the infusion will be fully trained on how to deal with any adverse reaction. An iron infusion will only be recommended if the benefits outweigh any risk.

Some immediate side effects of an iron infusion include the following:

  • Cramps in the abdomen
  • Metallic taste in the mouth
  • Dry mouth
  • Hot flushes
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Muscle cramps.

Side effects are not serious and are simply the body’s response to extra iron in the blood stream.

While effects may be felt as quickly as 15 minutes into the infusion, they could take a couple of days to subside.

If you’re concerned that the side effects are potentially harmful, always consult with your GP who can examine you to identify any further health concerns.

Before you have IV iron

Tell your doctor if you are:

  • Pregnant or trying to get pregnant
  • Have a history of asthma, eczema or other allergies
  • Have had a reaction to any type of iron injection in the past
  • Have a history of high iron levels, hemochromatosis or liver problems
  • Are on any medications – including over the counter or herbal supplements

We only perform iron infusions when medically indicated. We do not do perform iron infusions on athletes for the purpose of performance enhancement.

How much iron is needed?

When all of the iron needed by the body is given in a single infusion (1 treatment) this is called a ‘total dose’ infusion.  This delivers the right amount of iron to make enough new red blood cells to Hb levels to normal and have some stored in reserve for the future.

In other cases just giving smaller amounts of IV iron can help increase Hb levels enough to improve symptoms and help avoid a blood transfusion. The rest of the iron can then be given back to the body slowly over the coming months with iron tablets.

 

 

 

Who shouldn’t have an iron infusion?

Always tell your GP if you fall into any of the following categories as this may affect their recommendation for an iron infusion:

  • Pregnant
  • Asthmatic
  • Suffer with eczema or breathing allergies
  • Have suffered with liver problems.
  • Are on any medication.

We only perform iron infusions when medically indicated. We do not do perform iron infusions on athletes for the purpose of performance enhancement.

How much iron is needed?

Only the minimum amount of iron required to restore your levels to a safe level will be administered in your first iron infusion and your GP will recommend dietary changes or supplements from there.

How do I book an iron infusion?

All patients must book a counselling session with an Iron Infusion Doctor before having the procedure.

Current Iron Infusion Doctors:

If you’re suffering with the symptoms of anaemia, firstly see your GP to request a blood test to check your iron levels. This helps to determine if an iron infusion is the best course of treatment.