TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR IRON DEFICIENCY IN IBD

It is likely that if you have been diagnosed with IBD that you will have regular follow-up appointments with your doctor to check how you are feeling and to monitor the progress of your symptoms. If you have been feeling fatigued or have any of the symptoms of iron deficiency such as paleness, faintness or a racing heart, you may want to make an extra appointment or speak to your doctor about your symptoms at your next scheduled visit.

To get the most out of your visit, think in advance about the information that the doctor might need in order to work out what is causing your symptoms. You should also prepare any questions that you want to ask. For example, it may be useful for the doctor to know1,2

  • How your IBD symptoms currently are
  • What medications you are on
  • How well you have been sleeping
  • How much exercise you have been doing, and
  • If there is any life situation that is currently making you stressed

Questions that you might want to ask your doctor include:

  • I feel tired most of the time. Do you think I have anaemia?
  • Has my haemoglobin/ ferritin level been checked recently? If so, what did the results show?
  • If I have anaemia, which treatment would suit me best?
  • How can I avoid getting anaemia again?

HOW WILL YOUR DOCTOR TEST FOR IRON DEFICIENCY AND IRON DEFICIENCY ANAEMIA?

If you have IBD, it is likely that you have regular blood tests to check your Complete Blood Count (CBC)3. This blood test can be used to find out if you are anaemic. Further blood tests can also be done to find out if you are iron deficient. If you are found to be iron deficient or anaemic and you are given treatment, your blood may still be tested on a regular basis to make sure that your red blood cell levels are improving.

Are you anaemic?

Anaemia occurs when there are fewer healthy red blood cells in your blood or you have low haemoglobin levels.4 Haemoglobin carries oxygen in the blood from the lungs to the rest of the body. Your doctor can check whether or not you are anaemic by performing a Complete Blood Count. This helps your doctor to find out the number of red blood cells and amount of haemoglobin in your blood5.

The table beneath shows the haemoglobin level that may be considered ‘low’ by your doctor. The cut-off values that define anaemia can be different for different groups of people.

Gender/Age Blood Test Guideline Values your Doctor may use when Checking for Anaemia
Men > 15 years old Haemoglobin count to define anaemia Below 13 g/dL6
Women > 15 Years old (non-pregnant) Haemoglobin count to define anaemia Below 13 g/dL6
Women > 15 years old (pregnant) Haemoglobin count to define anaemia Below 13 g/dL6

*The guideline values and the units provided in this table are for your reference only and it is possible that your doctor uses different guideline values or units. Talk to your doctor about what your results mean.

Are you iron deficient?

Your doctor may also test your blood for iron deficiency either as part of the first blood test, or in a follow-up test. Several different results from your blood test can help a doctor to understand whether or not you are iron deficient. These include:

  • TSAT, or transferrin saturation, a test to measure the amount of iron that is being transported in your body7
  • Serum ferritin, which indicates the amount of iron stores you have in your body8

The table beneath shows the values that may be used by your doctor to determine if you are iron deficient.

Blood Test Result Guideline Values your Doctor may use when Checking for Anaemia

Serum

Ferritin

<30 ng/mL (patients in remission of IBD)

<100 ng/mL (patients with IBD active disease)

Tranferrin Saturation (TSAT) <20%

*The guideline values and the units provided in this table are for your reference only and it is possible that your doctor uses different guideline values or units. Talk to your doctor about what your results mean.

Depending on the results of your blood tests, your doctor may diagnose you as being iron deficient or as having iron deficiency anaemia. They may also discuss treatment options with you.