For patients who have discovered that they require infusion therapy with iron, the prospects can be a cause for some trepidation. Any time that a treatment recommendation is new, it can bring with it a variety of questions regarding what to expect, how the therapy will impact quality of life, and what kinds of risks are involved in this route of action. Becoming educated about the process and about the effects can facilitate the healing effects of the therapy, since it can also emotionally open the patient to accepting this change.
About Iron and Infusions
As a mineral that is necessary for physiological function, iron can come in a number of forms that are more apt to bind with certain organelles and receptors on specialized cells. However, cells that will readily absorb one form of iron will have to metabolize a different form of the mineral in order to utilize it. This also means that even if a person has been taking an oral iron supplement, they could still have a reaction to alternative formulations.
Another concern that many patients have is that infusions are absorbed almost immediately. This means that if there is an adverse reaction to the treatment, it is also likely to be fairly severe, since the substance is already in the blood stream. However, patients should also note that clinic and home base infusions are supervised by qualified and certified personnel who are also trained in lifesaving action. Should a reaction occur, then the patient is also closely monitored until all risk has been cleared.
Getting Ready for an Infusion
At the start of any new treatment, practitioners will generally review health histories and address any points of concern that the patient has. This can be an ideal time to go over questions, but to also address any concerns about possible allergies that can influence the effectiveness of the therapy. Along with existing allergies and sensitivities, patients should also review supplements and other medications with the practitioner.
Iron infusions can have adverse reactions with some substances.
- Mycophenolic acid
- Phytic acid
Discontinuation of medication may not be necessary, and doctors and nurses can adjust dosage rates to accommodate. However, it is important to discuss this in advance, since it can impact the treatment experience.
Other issues that should be covered before an infusion is administered include possible other health conditions that could cause issue.
This may include:
- Low blood pressure – iron infusions can worsen this ailment
- Blood sugar imbalances – this can range from diabetes to hypoglycemia, and the formulation of iron used in infusions is in a sucrose base
- Gastric ailments – although iron infusions can be used to treat deficiency from Crohn’s disease, iron can be highly irritant to the mucosal membranes. Some gastric conditions could be worsened by an iron infusion.
In many cases, infusions will be accompanied by some form of antihistamine, either orally or in the solution, in order to alleviate possible allergic responses.
Having the Infusion Experience
Regardless of whether the infusion therapy is taking place in the home or at a facility, it is generally recommended that the patient wear loose and comfortable clothes. This is not only for ease of relaxation during the treatment, but also to accommodate the possible side effects of mild swelling and water retention. While the length of time for an infusion can vary based on dosage ratios, most iron infusions tend to take between half an hour to just over an hour.
For clinic based treatment, the length of the visit may be longer, depending upon wait time. Home based infusions can usually be performed with greater speed and patients also appreciate the privacy of their own home.
Clinic based infusions can range from facilities that use:
- Private treatment room
- Public/group treatment rooms
- Group access rooms with removable partitions
The added privacy of home care can also help to lessen fear regarding a first time infusion and can also lessen any anxiety that is associated with feeling sick during or after the transfusion.
For the therapy, the patient will have a central line placed, and an IV drip started. Most of the treatment will involve the patient simply resting and waiting for the drip to complete. However, iron infusions can generate both immediate side effect reactions as well as ones that can last up to two days.
Some of the most common in treatment sensations include:
- Experiencing a change in taste or an unpleasant taste in the mouth
- Abdominal cramping
- Muscle cramps in joints and throughout the body
- Nausea or vomiting
- Pain which radiates down the arms or legs
- Pain, itching, or burning sensations that radiate from the site of injection
- Lack of saliva
- Facial flushing
All of these reactions are simply a response to the iron infusion and can greatly vary in severity. Many patients will begin to feel these symptoms within fifteen minutes of starting the infusion, although the sensations will continue even after the drip is completed.
After the Iron Infusion
The majority of patients will begin to recover from these reactions within a day to two days after the infusion, and many people report that these symptoms can lessen as more infusions are taken. However, first time patients can have a fairly rough first time with iron therapies, although the anti-histamines that are often used with the solution can also offer some relief in the form of sleep.
Most patients report that after these sensations subside, other side effects are minimal. Some people may have a rash around the site of injection and some continued digestive distress, but these are minor to the initial response. Some patients have also stated that they are able to feel the benefits of infusion within a few days of treatment, although this may be precipitated by some feelings of anxiety, restlessness, and nervous energy, as the body begins to adjust to the added fuel and energy of the iron in the blood stream.