Iron and Blood

Pharmacists are experts on medicines and drug therapy. The pharmacists at UFS have all completed a university course and intern year, and come with a variety of past experience such as hospital pharmacy, mental health, oncology, medication review and international volunteering. Each pharmacist at UFS has a keen interest in drug therapy and helping patients of get the best possible care. We are always available for any questions and are able to explain in plain English how your medications work, whether different medications are safe to take together, how to get the most out of your therapy and any other enquires you might have.

The next four blogs are going to cover one of my personal favourite body systems, the circulatory system (or blood).  If you have any further questions, feel free to pop into Hargreaves St UFS and see me – stay healthy and safe.

Iron and blood

The human body requires constant blood flow to survive and adapt to our environment. Blood carries a variety of nutrients around the body, the most easily identifiable of which is oxygen. Oxygen is required by living cells to create energy, and tissues and organs that require more energy (such as muscles) will need more blood flow to satisfy their energy requirements. Oxygen is carried from the air we breathe (which is about 23% oxygen gas) from our lungs through the blood by attaching to a substance called haemoglobin which is contained in red blood cells. These cells (and haemoglobin) are what gives red blood cells their distinctive red colour.

Haemoglobin is a protein surrounding an iron atom, which is why being deficient in iron can affect your ability to carry oxygen around the body. This condition is called anaemia (specifically iron-deficient-anaemia to differentiate it from other forms) and will mean that a sufferers organs will not be receiving enough oxygen, which gives the characteristic fatigue and pale appearance that we associate with anaemia. There are a number of reasons for not having enough iron, usually either that intake is insufficient for needs, or may not be absorbed from the diet, or that a person is losing blood from somewhere.

In the first case, supplementation either by oral tablets or injection will fix the problem, but in the second case we must determine where the body is losing blood and fix that first. Stomach ulcers and intestinal bleeding are a common cause of this form. Iron unfortunately can have some problems with its use. Injections can be painful if intramuscular, and can cause allergic reactions in some people when given intravenously. The tablets can also cause constipation and can interact with some other medicines, but fortunately there are forms that are much less likely to cause this problem, and a pharmacist can advise whether iron will create a problem with other medications. Please feel free to consult a UFS pharmacist at any time with any questions and we will be happy to help you.