An iron infusion is simply a liquid dose of iron given in the veins.
Iron is an essential mineral that we get from eating foods such as meat, eggs, and leafy greens. Iron is needed to make hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying substance in red blood cells. Many people, especially women having regular menstrual periods, have low iron levels (iron deficiency). If iron remains low for weeks or months, the body makes fewer red blood cells, and a low blood count (iron-deficiency anemia) can result.
For the overwhelming majority of people with iron deficiency, taking iron pills every day replaces the missing iron, and low blood counts return to normal.
In a few people, iron pills aren’t sufficient to keep up with iron losses. This can occur when there is ongoing bleeding, or the intestines can’t absorb the swallowed iron. In other people, oral iron may cause a bad reaction. People in these special situations may need to receive an iron infusion to replace the missing iron.
An iron infusion is most often given at a doctor’s office or hospital. A nurse places an IV, and a bag of fluid containing dissolved iron drains into the person’s veins.
Some conditions or situations that may require an iron infusion include:
People with inflammatory bowel disease with severe iron deficiency
People with end-stage renal disease on dialysis
People with cancer and anemia
People taking erythropoietin or similar drugs to stimulate red blood cell production
Iron infusions are generally safe, but severe reactions to the drug preparation do occasionally occur. These can cause shortness of breath, itching, spasms, or (rarely) a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis.
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