Iron deficiency

Are you always tired?  Have you had your iron levels tested recently?

Iron is important for many bodily systems including energy, muscle strength and brain function. Iron is found in high concentrations in red meat and green leafy vegetables. If your levels are low this may make you feel tired, dizzy, short of breath, or unable to perform normal daily activities.

Iron deficiency is a very common problem that we see in general practice, particularly in women. The common causes are dietary insufficiency, heavy periods, pregnancy and breastfeeding.

There are many oral iron preparations of various strengths available over the counter.  However, these often cause significant side effects such as nausea and bowel complaints, and some people have trouble absorbing them due to reflux or bowel conditions. It is also a relatively slow method of replenishing stores.

Another option is for iron to be given intravenously which is called an infusion.  It is useful for people who are not able to take oral iron due to side effects, poor absorption, or if they need to get their iron levels up quickly, such as before surgery.

The iron infusion procedure involves a small plastic tube (cannula) being inserted into an arm vein. The infusion takes about 15 minutes and we monitor blood pressure closely throughout the procedure and for 15 minutes afterwards.

Side effects during the infusion are uncommon.  Brownish skin staining may occur very rarely due to leakage of iron into the tissues around the infusion site and all possible measures are taken to avoid this happening.  About 30% of patients report side effects after the infusion including severe headache, nausea and muscle aches.

While it can take several weeks for the full benefits to be experienced, the infusion is extremely effective in improving iron stores.

If you are interested in finding out more about iron infusions, please book an appointment with an iron infusion GP to discuss the process in more detail.

Doctor of Northcote’s iron infusion GPs:

  • Dr Sara Rayner
  • Dr Leanne Hoang
  • Dr Kirstin Jennings
  • Dr Kun Lin Chua