Anemia is a body's deficiency in the critical mineral iron. Those who have anemia often present with low energy, easy fatigue, pale skin, chills, and rapid heart rate. For many, the solution is as simple as beginning an iron supplement, though for some, this may not be enough. In extreme cases and specific medical conditions, however, oral iron may be insufficient or ineffective. In those cases, iron deficiency must be cured with intravenous injection therapy instead. Here is a look at the role that iron plays in the body, and when you might consider intravenous therapy for the condition:
What does Iron Do?
Iron is a mineral that is very important in the body's ability to bring oxygen to cells from the bloodstream. It is a main component in hemoglobin, which is the carrying device that red blood cells use to bring oxygen from the lungs to the cells of the body, and remove carbon dioxide from the cells back to the lungs. Low levels of iron mean a decreased ability to feed the cells, and a backup of cell waste in the body. Both of these things can cause issues with energy and basic daily functions.
When is Oral Iron Insufficient?
An oral iron supplement or high-iron foods are the two main ways in which most people will up their iron levels. For others, however, it may not be enough, or it may not work. Those with intestinal absorption issues like crohn's disease, celiac disease, or inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS) may have trouble getting the iron to pass through the intestinal walls. Those with bleeding in the GI area, an upcoming surgery that will require large blood loss, or conditions that require them to take blood cell stimulating medicines called ESAs will need more iron than oral doses can provide. This is because IV iron is absorbed much more quickly than oral iron, and there are cases in which too much oral iron can cause toxicity issues.
IV iron is delivered from a needle into a patient's vein. It can be done via a single injection dose or as a hanging IV infusion bag, depending on the situation. Doctors may ask for a single dose, or they may have several over the course of several days to return blood supplies to normal or to supplement before a large blood loss event. Once IV therapy has been declared successful, patients will often be prescribed an oral iron supplement to continue using as follow-up care. Monitoring of blood levels will go on for a few months or until they believe that a patient is clear of the anemic complication with their health condition. For some with chronic issues like kidney dialysis, monitoring and IV supplementation may be a permanent part of management of the disease.