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What to expect during an iron infusion

Unfortunately, if you have Crohn’s disease, receiving iron infusions may become part of a recurring treatment for your disease. Even though Crohn’s is so individualistic, chances are at one point throughout your patient journey, you will need to receive an iron transfusion.

Absorbing iron with Crohn's disease

Absorbing iron through the gut becomes difficult when you are dealing with severe inflammation. Your gut simply cannot process iron as it should and deliver it properly to your cells, hence the reason so many become iron deficient.

As the first line of response, your doctor will probably prescribe you oral iron supplements to take in order to see if there is an improvement in your iron levels. Sadly, most of us find it difficult to handle these supplements as they can cause bloating, constipation and abdominal cramping. Who needs more of that, right?

Iron infusions versus iron supplements

Personally, I never had success with oral iron supplements. They always caused unpleasant side effects and I always felt sick. In came the iron infusions.

My doctor made it clear that iron infusions were my best bet considering my response to oral supplements. I quickly agreed as all I wanted was to feel better and help kick up my iron levels to improve my iron-deficient anemia.

What to expect during an iron infusion

First, if you take a biologic via infusion, it is practically the same process, just different medication. You will go to your infusion center and meet with a nurse that will administer the iron. While sitting in a comfortable chair, you will be hooked onto an IV. We all know the deal here. A prick, a bunch of taping to secure the IV, and then you’re ready to receive the iron.

From my experience, the infusion is administered in two parts. You receive one dose of iron and then after several weeks go back for a second. The iron itself comes in a small pouch and is of a crimson color. The actual infusion is about 45 minutes and then you will remain in the infusion center for about 15-30 minutes afterward so they can monitor your vitals and make sure you don’t have a reaction.

After you wait the appropriate time, your nurse will unhook you from your IV and you will be free to go home.

A couple of tips that may with an iron infusion:

  1. Make sure you have eaten before your appointment and that you are well hydrated. I have found that doing infusions of any sort on an empty stomach is not a good idea. Your body needs fuel to process the medication. And of course, if you are dehydrated, finding your veins becomes an absolute mission. So make sure you are well fed and hydrated before your appointment.
  2. Dress in comfortable, warm clothes. Typically infusion centers have their AC blasting high, so have a sweater with you to keep you warm. Also, leggings or your choice of comfortable bottoms are a must. You will be sitting for a while and don’t want to be uncomfortable.
  3. Bring something to entertain yourself with. Whether it’s your phone, a book, iPad, or a coloring book. Bring something to do to help pass the time by.
  4. Be thankful. Just a little mental note to remember how lucky you are to receive such a helpful treatment. Crohn’s disease sucks, let’s face it. But the fact that you are able to receive a treatment that will virtually fix your iron levels overnight is one heck of a privilege. It’s not fun to be stuck in an infusion center, but remember to be thankful that you have access to such helpful medical interventions.

Do iron infusions help?

Overall, iron infusions are almost identical to receiving a biologic at an infusion center. I will say, they help tremendously with boosting your iron levels, and every time I get one, I have major success with improving my anemia.

If you have difficulty taking oral iron supplements, ask your doctor about the possibility of receiving an iron infusion. If you are approved, I highly recommend it.

Have you ever had an iron infusion for your Crohn’s? If so, share any tips you’d like to add, we love to hear from you!

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