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How Can You Minimize The Side Effects Of IV Therapy?

If you've recently been told you will need to seek intravenous (IV) therapy for anemia, sickle cell disease, diabetes, or another ailment, you may be wondering what to expect. Although the infusion of fluids into a vein over an extended period of time can sometimes cause complications in your veins and surrounding tissues, there are fortunately many ways to help minimize or even eliminate some of the more common side effects of long-term IV therapy. Read on to learn more about what you can expect from your therapy.

What is IV therapy?

The general term "IV therapy" describes any type of intravenous introduction of saline or another fluid to help treat or cure an ailment. However, in many cases, your doctor may prescribe IV therapy to take place for an extended period of time to help manage an illness that has not been responsive to other methods. For example, your doctor may recommend the installation of a port to help you receive a steady flow of insulin throughout the day and night, minimizing your blood sugar surges or drops. In other situations, your doctor may prescribe daily or weekly blood transfusions to help raise your iron levels or increase the amount of oxygen carried to your tissues by your red blood cells.

What side effects are common?

Although the occasional IV insertion shouldn't cause you any problems, repeatedly inserting a needle into a specific area of the arm, leg, or other appendage can sometimes cause a buildup of scar tissue around the vein. This scar tissue may then interfere with the phlebotomist or technician's ability to insert the needle, creating a cycle of difficult IV treatments.

Another potential side effect of long-term IV treatments can be the risk of infection. Although IV technicians receive special training to help reduce your risk of infection, whenever you break the surface of the skin -- even just through a paper cut or tiny scratch -- you run the risk of allowing bacteria to enter through this microscopic wound and multiply into an infection.

What can you do to minimize these side effects?

Fortunately, these side effects are relatively uncommon, even for those receiving long-term treatment. However, you can further reduce your risk of unpleasant side effects by engaging in some preventive behaviors.

Be sure to drink plenty of water and other fluids prior to beginning your therapy. The more hydrated your veins and muscles are, the easier it is for the technician to place the needle, and the lower your risk of a vein rupture or other event that could create scar tissue.

You should also sure to wash your hands carefully before handling your injection area, and don't allow others to touch it without washing their hands as well. By minimizing the amount of bacteria your wound is exposed to, you can dramatically reduce the risk of infection.