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What are the side effects of taking iron supplements?

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Quick Answer

Side effects of iron supplements include chest pain, chills, dizziness, fainting and a fast heartbeat, according to Mayo Clinic. Patients who experience these side effects should seek medical attention. Some patients experience leg cramps and constipation when taking iron supplements; medical attention is not generally necessary for these symptoms.

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Full Answer

Many side effects of iron supplements, including nausea, leg cramps, diarrhea and constipation, tend to go away as the patient's body adapts to the supplement, explains Mayo Clinic. Patients who are extremely bothered by these side effects can contact their doctors for advice to reduce the symptoms but should not be alarmed. Iron supplements in liquid form can blacken the teeth. Taking iron supplements in high doses is unsafe and is the leading cause of poisoning death in children.

Iron supplements are frequently used to prevent and treat iron-deficiency anemia, notes WebMD. Sometimes they are used to treat depression, fatigue or Crohn's disease. Although iron supplements are generally safe when taken as recommended by a physician, they are not for everyone. Patients with stomach ulcers or ulcerative colitis may find that iron supplements make their symptoms worse. Those who have hemoglobin diseases such as thalassemia should not take iron unless directed to do so by a physician, since iron supplements can lead to iron overload in these patients. The usual dose for treating iron deficiency is 50 to 100 milligrams of iron three times per day. Patients should not exceed this dose unless instructed to do so by a doctor. Pregnant or breastfeeding women who have an iron deficiency should not take more than 45 milligrams of elemental iron per day, as higher doses are likely unsafe. Although controversial, some studies show that high iron intake may be a contributing factor in heart disease.

While iron is needed for transporting oxygen and carbon dioxide, caution should be used when taking certain medications, as iron supplements can interact negatively, according to WebMD. For instance, iron may decrease the degree by which an antibiotic is absorbed by the body. This can decrease the antibiotic's effectiveness. It is recommended that people take iron two hours before or after taking an antibiotic medication. Iron supplements are commonly taken for iron deficiency anemia or to improve athletic performance.

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