Iron is what doctors call an “essential” mineral. This means that iron is essential to human health. When it comes to iron, this important role it plays is a carrier of oxygen in the blood.
Why We Need Iron?
According to WebMD, “Iron is an important component of hemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen from your lungs to transport it throughout your body. Hemoglobin represents about two-thirds of the body’s iron. If you don’t have enough iron, your body can’t make enough healthy oxygen-carrying red blood cells. A lack of red blood cells is called iron deficiency anemia.”
Iron deficiency means your body may not be getting enough oxygen to properly function. The first sign of iron deficiency is fatigue. Iron deficiency can impact your brain function as well as your immune system’s ability to ward off illnesses.
How Much Iron Do I Need?
How much iron your body needs depends on factors like age, gender, diet and exercise. Young children need more iron than adults as they are growing rapidly; women need more iron than men because they lose blood each month through menstruation. People who exercise rigorously may need more iron, as may people with diets that are low in meat because the body absorbs iron from meat better than it absorbs iron from vegetables.
How to Increase Iron
People with iron deficiency may be able to compensate by eating more iron-rich food or by taking oral iron supplements. In some cases, people require more iron than the body can absorb from foods or supplements and an iron infusion is necessary. Iron infusions are often prescribed for cancer patients suffering from anemia, which can be a major complication for patients.
Iron infusions can also be prescribed for people that are unable to take oral iron supplements, don’t absorb enough iron through the digestive process, or have experienced excessive blood loss.
Iron infusions are administered intravenously, through a needle inserted directly into the patient’s vein. The needle is connected to a tube, which in turn is connected to a container with iron diluted in saline solution.
Depending on the cause and the severity of the anemia, the results from the iron infusion will vary as far as full recovery. Most people feel fine after an infusion and are able to drive themselves home from the hospital or outpatient facility where the infusion took place.
Recovering from Anemia
According to the Cleveland Clinic, “When you should start to feel better depends on your particular situation. Normally, it may take from a week to a month after you start your iron supplement before you start to feel better.” For example, if your anemia is caused by blood loss from an ulcer, the rate of recovery will depend partly on the rate of blood loss after the treatment.
Too Much of a Good Thing
More is not always better when it comes to iron. In rare cases, too much iron can cause iron toxicity. The symptoms of iron toxicity may come on quickly, or slowly as too much iron is stored in the body’s tissues. Too much iron can cause mild to severe stomach pain, and if continued for a long period of time can lead to liver and heart damage.
Iron infusions are often administered through a specialty pharmacy like MedicoRx®. For more information, check out “What Will I Feel Like After an Iron Infusion.”