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Can I take iron tablets for anaemia without consulting a doctor?

Q: I am a 30 years old woman suffering from anaemia due to iron deficiency and my doctor has advised me to take 50 mg carbonyl iron twice a day. I started improving but its taking time. I want rapid improvement. Can I start taking 50 mg iron tablets thrice a day without consulting my doctor?

A:Treatment of most patients with iron deficiency is with oral iron therapy. The underlying cause too is corrected so that deficiency does not recur. The cheapest and most effective form is ferrous iron. The side effects experienced on taking iron tablet are proportional to the amount of iron available for absorption. The iron preparation you take should contain between 30-100 mg elemental iron. Avoid enteric-coated or prolonged-release preparations. The dose you take should be sufficient to provide between 150-200 mg elemental iron per day and the tablet may be taken 2 to 3 times a day about 1 hour before meals. Though ferrous sulphate is recommended to treat iron deficiency, often patients complain of gastrointestinal discomfort, bloating and other distress. Ferrous gluconate, which is roughly equivalent in cost, produces fewer problems, and is preferable as the initial treatment of iron deficiency. Ascorbic acid supplementation enhances iron absorption. Polysaccharide-iron complex is a more recent option. The polar oxygen groups in the polysaccharide form complexes with the iron atoms and the well-hydrated microspheres of polysaccharide iron remain in solution over a wide pH range. Most patients tolerate this form of iron better than the iron salts, even though the 150 mg of elemental iron per tablet is substantially greater than that provided by iron salts (50 to 70 mg per tablet). The treatment should be continued for 3 months after the haemoglobin has returned to normal so that the body iron stores are replenished. Response to treatment is confirmed by doing a reticulocyte count after 10-12 days of treatment and the rate of rise of haemoglobin (with adequate dose of iron) is about 1 g/dl per week.

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