Iron Infusion - Side Effects And Benefits

Iron infusion is a medical procedure in which iron (an essential mineral) is delivered directly into the bloodstream of the body through a vein.

To do this, a needle placed into a vein is attached to a drip which contains iron combined with a sterile salt water solution. This procedure takes approximately 2 to 4 hours. Also, you may need some medication before the infusion, that may also take about 1 hour.

In November 2000, iron sucrose was approved for use in the US although it had also been used for a few years in Europe. However, in the early 20th century, ferric hydroxide preparation was used during this procedure.

This medical procedure is recommended when someone has iron deficiency anemia. According to the WHO – World Health Organisation, this type of anemia is the most common nutritional disorder in the world, with approximately 3 percent of men, 20 percent of women, and 50 percent of pregnant women.

Iron anemia occurs when someone has a decreased level of hemoglobin in the red blood cells. Hemoglobin is actually the part of the red blood cells which binds to oxygen.

Signs and symptoms of iron deficiency anemia include:

  • poor appetite;
  • unusual cravings for non-nutritive substances (a condition called pica);
  • brittle nails;
  • noticeable heart palpitations;
  • inflammation of the tongue;
  • cold feet and hands;
  • difficulty concentrating;
  • dizziness;
  • soreness of the mouth;
  • shortness of breath;
  • chest pain;
  • pale skin;
  • lack of energy;
  • some individuals who have this condition develop restless legs syndrome (uncomfortable sensations in the legs and a strong urge to move them).

People at risk for iron deficiency anemia include – women with heavy periods, pregnant women, people with cancers or those who take some prescription meds, as well as people who have kidney failure.

Additionally, this medical procedure is indicated in combination with erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (medicine that stimulates red blood cell production) in chemotherapy-induced anemia and chronic kidney disease.

What To Expect On The Day Of The Procedure

There is no special preparation required for it. However, it is helpful if you have had sufficient of fluids to drink, so the nurse can find the vein easier.

As you are going to spend a long time for this procedure, it is recommended to wear loose fitting comfortable clothing. Also, feel free to bring any puzzle books, reading material, or iPods. Meals will be provided during the procedure.

The staff will monitor you during this medical procedure to be 100 percent sure that iron is well tolerated. Following the procedure, you must remain in the clinic for monitoring for about half an hour. Unless you have an unexpected adverse reaction, you will be able to drive home and do your usual activities.

Benefits

There are also oral supplements for people experiencing an iron deficiency. However,  some individuals experience side-effects from these oral supplements (such as – constipation or stomach upsets). Plus, there are a few situations when oral supplements cannot be used or are ineffective.

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In addition, some studies show that oral iron supplements can change the large intestine microbiome promoting harmful bacteria to flourish.

So, these situations make this procedure seem like an attractive option. Most sufferers experience a rapid improvement in their signs and symptoms, commonly within seven to 14 days.

Side Effects Of Iron Infusion

This procedure is generally safe, however, some adverse reactions occasionally occur. These include:

  • burning sensation at the site of the injection;
  • faintness and dizziness when getting up suddenly from a sitting position;
  • swelling of the arms, face, lower legs, hands, or feet;
  • decreased or increased blood pressure;
  • rash and itchiness;
  • reduced sense of taste or strange taste in the mouth;
  • shortness of breath;
  • ear congestion;
  • muscle pain;
  • joint pain;
  • swelling of the joints;
  • vomiting and nausea;
  • severe headaches;
  • changes in the way you taste drinks and food.

Other Methods To Increase Your Iron Levels

If you have low iron levels, it is essential to check your nutrition to be sure that it contains sufficient iron. Foods rich in iron include:

  • legumes – pinto beans, black beans, green peas, soybeans, lima beans, red kidney beans, chickpeas, and lentils;
  • whole grains – oatmeal, brown rice, and quinoa;
  • dark green leafy vegetables – spinach, kale, and parsley;
  • vegetables – carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, Jerusalem-artichokes, asparagus, peppers, radishes, and tomatoes;
  • nuts – cashews, almonds, and Brazil nuts;
  • seeds – chia seeds and sesame seeds.

Tips

Avoid Dairy Products

According to research, 165 mg of calcium from any type of dairy products reduces iron absorption by about 60 percent.

Eggs

In addition, avoid eggs, since one boiled egg can lower iron absorption by as much as 29%, according to the Iron Disorders Institute. This happens since eggs contain phosvitin, a compound which binds iron molecules together, hence, preventing the human body from absorbing this essential mineral from foods.

Eat Foods High In Vitamin C

Vitamin C helps in the absorption of non-heme irons. Plus, it stores it in a form which is more easily absorbed by the body.

Legumes 

Legumes must be adequately cooked to lower their lectin content.

Avoid Unnecessary Antacids

Antacids can inhibit the absorption of iron, as stomach acid is required for this process.

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