Iron is one of the essential minerals in the human body. It is one of the components of haemoglobin which enables red blood cells to carry oxygen. If you do not have enough iron, your body cannot make haemoglobin, and you may develop iron deficiency anaemia. Iron is also important for muscle strength, energy and good mental function.
Iron deficiency can be due to blood loss (e.g. heavy periods, gastrointestinal bleeding), inadequate dietary intake of iron or an increase in the body’s need for iron (e.g. pregnancy). Oral iron supplements are usually first-line therapy for most patients presenting with iron-deficiency anaemia. An iron infusion is sometimes recommended if patients experience side-effects from oral iron (stomach upsets, constipation), when iron stores are particularly low or when oral iron is ineffective (eg chronic kidney disease or inflammatory bowel disease). The aim of the iron infusion therapy is to replenish body iron stores and to correct anaemia.
It is unusual to experience any significant side-effects from an iron infusion with the newer iron preparations.
You will be closely monitored while IV iron is given, and for 30 minutes after. Skin staining (brown discolouration) may occur due to leakage of iron into the tissues around the needle (drip) site. This is not common but the stain can be long lasting or permanent. Inform the doctor or nurse straight away of any discomfort, burning, redness or swelling at the needle site. Occasionally patients experience a headache, nausea, flushing, itchiness, fever or chills. Rarely people may have a serious allergic reaction which can be life threatening. Sometimes side-effects (eg. headache, muscle or joint pain) can start 1 to 2 days later. They usually settle down within a few days. If you have chest pain, trouble breathing, dizziness or neck / mouth swelling, please seek urgent medical attention by calling an ambulance (000).
Hereditary haemochromatosis is an inherited disorder resulting from the over absorption of iron from the diet. It is the most common genetic disorder in Australia. The excess iron is stored in the body especially the liver, heart and pancreas and over a long period of time this can lead to major complications, such as liver disease, heart problems and diabetes. Only a minority of people with haemochromatosis ever develop serious problems. If haemochromatosis is detected before damage occurs, it can be easily treated by removing blood from your body (venesections) as red blood cells contain a lot of iron. CCH arranges venesections for patients with iron overload at Australian Red Cross Lifeblood or at Gosford Hospital Medical Day Unit or Wyong Hospital Ambulatory Care Unit.
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