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Iron Deficiency

Iron is needed by cells in your body to function properly. Most importantly, it forms part of the red blood cell that carries oxygen around the body.

Iron is required for production of red blood cells, a healthy immune system, good mental health, muscle function and energy production.

Iron deficiency occurs when iron stores are used up and not replenished. If prolonged, it can lead to iron deficiency anaemia.

 

How common is it?

Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency worldwide. It is far more common in developing countries than in developed countries.

It is more common in infants given cow’s milk instead of breast or iron fortified formula milk, young children, women with heavy periods, pregnant women, recent migrants, and people with dietary restrictions.

 

What causes it?

The causes of iron deficiency are:

  • Insufficient intake – vegetarian, vegan or diets with inadequate iron.
  • Impaired absorption – gastrointestinal conditions such as coeliac’s disease, gastric surgery
  • Blood loss – most commonly from menstrual blood loss, frequent heavy nose bleeds, bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract and blood donation.

 

What are the symptoms of iron deficiency?

Iron deficiency usually does not present with symptoms until anaemia develops. Some signs include:

  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Breathlessness
  • Decreased exercise tolerance
  • Decreased ability to concentrate

 

How to diagnose iron deficiency?

Iron deficiency can be diagnosed with a simple blood test.

 

What are the types of treatment available?

  • Eating iron rich food
  • Taking oral iron supplements
  • Intravenous iron infusion

 

How can I get an iron infusion?

As iron can cause overload and toxicity if given to individuals who do not require supplementation, it is a requirement to see a doctor for a consultation first.

During the initial consultation, the doctor will go through the following:

  • Check for symptoms of iron deficiency
  • Organise for blood tests to confirm iron deficiency, if not already performed
  • Explore potential causes for iron deficiency
  • Discuss options for iron supplementation
  • Check the patient’s eligibility for an iron infusion
  • Discuss the risks and side effects of the procedure and the costs.

 

What does the procedure involve?

If the patient is eligible, the patient will be booked for an hour long appointment at the clinic. The full costs of the procedure will be collected at the time of booking and a medicare rebate provided on the day of the procedure. If the procedure is cancelled with less than 24hrs notice, there will be no refunds provided.

  • The patient is to buy the iron product from the chemist and bring it to the appointment.
  • Nursing staff will perform baseline checks
  • The doctor will insert the IV drip
  • The infusion will run over 15 to 20mins.
  • Nursing staff will perform more checks during and after the infusion to monitor for side effects
  • The patient will be kept for observation for a further 15-30mins after the infusion is completed.
  • The patient is to book for follow up with the doctor.

 

Cost of iron infusion?

The cost for an iron infusions is $140 which is payable upon booking , you will be eligible for a  rebate of $72.80 from Medicare. 

The doctor will  provide you with a script for Ferinject, prices are $6.40 with a concession card and $39.50 without a concession card.  

 

 

Further reading:

Gastroenterological Society of Australia http://www.gesa.org.au/resources/patients/iron-deficiency/

Better Health Channel https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/iron-deficiency-adults

 

Dr Jean Ong | 9 January 2019

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