Iron Infusions: Everything You Need to Know
If your doctor has recently recommended an iron infusion for you, then you may be wondering about what these treatments involve. Or perhaps you are proactive about your health and suspect you may be iron deficient. In either case, this article will give you an overview of why your doctor might prescribe iron infusions, some frequently asked questions about the treatment, and what to expect throughout the process.
Iron deficiency anemia is one of the most common types of anemia (a condition in which you lack enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to your body’s tissues). Many people don’t realize they have it until they start feeling the symptoms. Iron deficiency anemia affects about 1 in 10 women and 1 in 15 men and is a leading cause of fatigue.
You might not know it, but your body uses iron to transport oxygen throughout your body. If you’re experiencing chronic fatigue, the culprit may be an iron deficiency. When administered by a medical professional, iv iron infusions can quickly fix this.
Why Get an Iron Infusion?
As mentioned above, if feeling tired or weak is a common experience for you, you may have chronic anemia. An iv iron infusion is an efficient way to take care of that problem.
Ferritin is a blood protein that stores iron for your body to use when its supply is low. So if you have low ferritin, it essentially depletes your body of its iron stores and is an indicator of anemia and other issues. Boosting your ferritin level is a benefit of an iv iron infusion.
Closely related to anemia, unexplained fatigue that is difficult to nail down can often be traced back to an iron deficiency. The good news is, if that is the problem, an iv iron infusion could be a solution.
Rapid heart rate
If you notice that your heart is beating faster than it should, it could be a result of low iron. As described above, when you are low on iron, your cells become depleted of their oxygen supply. The result is that your heart has to work harder to pump, thus, elevated heart rates.
Shortness of breath
Almost inseparable from the low-iron consequence of fast heart rate, shortness of breath is common. As your cells fight for the oxygen that is in short supply in the bloodstream, your body will struggle to do even everyday activities such as walking. The result is that you will often find yourself having a difficult time breathing. An iv iron infusion can often solve this.
How to Get an Iron Infusion
To identify if you are a candidate for an iv iron infusion, current lab work within the last 30 days is the starting point. This will give the clinic a reading on your ferritin levels and potential anemia.
Dr. Eli Hudson of Encompass Direct Care advises, “The ideal range for a ferritin lab is between 100 and 130 ng/mL (nanograms per milliliter), and most people don’t feel well unless their ferritin is within that range.”
According to the Merck Manual, a value under 30 is considered below normal, and anything less than 12 is specific to iron deficiency. With current lab work, a range below normal will allow the clinic to proceed with iv iron infusion treatment.
Frequently Asked Questions about IV Iron Infusions
How many iron infusions do I need?
“It usually takes about three IVs to get to that ideal range. Often, that’s enough, but it is variable and depends on the individual,” says Dr. Hudson. “Our treatment plan is based on current ferritin levels and when the patient begins to feel that fatigue kick in again. We won’t know how often the patient needs iron IVs until we are able to measure their response through lab work.”
What happens after the treatment?
“Research says it takes about a week for ferritin levels to peak,” states Dr. Hudson. “I’ve seen increases in ferritin of about 10 points on the low end, to about 70 points on the high-end per IV. No two people are exactly the same, and it depends on how the body processes and absorbs it. How much the patient weighs is also a significant factor.”
How long after an iron infusion will I feel better?
“Unfortunately, there’s never going to be a great answer for that,” says Dr. Hudson. Many factors can influence the effectiveness of an iron infusion. It depends on how well the body responds to it, and we won’t have a definitive answer until the patient tries it. Then, based on their response, we will have a better idea how often they are needed and how quickly they will feel better.”
How does an iron infusion work?
Dr. Hudson explains, “Your body is going to repackage that iron into new red blood cells in the next 180 days, so the ferritin level should drop a bit. But if the patient is recycling those cells appropriately, ferritin should stay at an optimal level. If not, something’s going on, and we’ve got to figure out why. I recommend proactively retesting the ferritin level after six months.”
What are the types of iron infusions?
The two most common types of iron infusion products are Venofer and Injectafer, per Dr. Hudson. The difference between the two has to do with the concentration of iron you’re putting in at one sitting and how fast it goes into your body.
Venofer carries less risk because it is a low molecular weight iron (less concentrated), whereas Injectafer has a higher molecular weight (more concentrated) which carries more risk.
How much does an iron infusion cost?
“The cost will vary dramatically depending on if you are receiving treatment in a hospital or at a doctor’s office and their individual overhead expenses,” adds Dr. Hudson. “It also depends upon the type of iron infusion you are receiving. I’ve seen hospital bills for Injectafer infusions upwards of 14 thousand dollars per treatment. In our clinic, we use Venofer, which is $189 per treatment at our facility.”
Iron Infusion Side Effects and Risks
While iron infusions are overall safe and low-risk, especially if treated at a reputable IV therapy clinic, it is important to note that there may be some side effects after your treatment.
Dr. Hudson notes, “The most common side effects with Venofer I’ve seen in my practice are hypotension, nausea, tightness in the chest, and muscle aches.”
Other potential side effects of Venofer could include:
- blurred vision
- difficult or labored breathing
- dizziness, faintness, or lightheadedness when getting up suddenly from a lying or sitting position
- pounding in the ears
- slow or fast heartbeat
- tingling of the hands or feet
The list of side effects of Injectafer is similar to that of Venofer. A more comprehensive list can be found here. Check with your doctor or nurse immediately if any of these side effects occur during or immediately after an iron infusion.
“With iron infusions, hypersensitivity reactions (where a substance or medication triggers an extreme and adverse reaction from the immune system) are one thing we have to look out for,” warns Hudson. It’s extremely rare, but the risk does exist. As a precaution, we have EpiPens, IV Benadryl, and oxygen on hand.”
As with any procedure that breaks the skin barrier, there is a potential risk for infection. You can minimize that risk by choosing a high-quality IV therapy practice. Unfortunately, not all clinics are equal in that regard. You can read more about how to find a good IV therapy clinic to minimize your risk of infection here.
In conclusion, iron deficiency is the culprit behind various issues, as outlined, whose cause can be otherwise difficult to pinpoint. Getting lab work done is the first step in discovering if low iron may be causing you health issues such as chronic fatigue. If the results indicate you are a candidate for an iv iron infusion, the next step is getting your first treatment scheduled.
At Encompass Direct Care, we take great pride in making sure our patients have a safe, sanitary, pleasant experience for iv therapy and all the other services we provide.