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How does iron help treat anemia?

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Quick Answer

Iron-deficient anemia is treated with iron supplements, taken orally or by injection, according to UpToDate. These supplements increase the production of hemoglobin and rebuild the body's iron reserves to combat anemia.

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In most people with anemia, taking iron supplements orally is the preferred method, states UpToDate. Iron oral tablets are safe, effective and inexpensive. Enteric-coated tablets and slow-release tablets are not recommended due to slow absorption. Iron pills must be taken at specific times: one or two hours after food, tea, coffee, milk and antibiotics. Iron pills taken in conjunction with a 250-milligram vitamin C tablet enhance iron absorption.

There are several types of oral iron tablets, and no evidence demonstrates one to be more effective than another, according to UpToDate. A doctor should decide on the correct dosage of iron necessary. A patient must take oral iron tablets daily until the hematocrit and hemoglobin counts are back to normal.

When a person cannot tolerate the side effects of oral treatment, or the treatment fails to treat the condition, an injection of parenteral iron is given intravenously in a professional setting, notes UpToDate. This parenteral iron is infused slowly into the vein for an hour or longer. When both oral and injection treatments fail, the next recommended procedure is a blood transfusion.

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