If your body absorbs more iron than it needs, it’s stuck with it. Iron accumulates because the human body has no natural process to dump this mineral.
Hemochromatosis, or iron overload, is a disease marked by too much iron accumulation in your body. Health issues arise with iron storage, especially when its excess is stored in your liver, heart and pancreas. Iron overload can damage your organs, causing them to fail.
Hemochromatosis is classified as either hereditary or secondary. Hereditary hemochromatosis is a defect in your genes that control the extent of iron absorption from your diet. Most cases of hemochormatosis are the hereditary type.
Secondary hemochromatosis is the result of another health condition or situation that causes iron overload, such as:
- kidney dialysis
- aplastic anemia
- blood transfusions
- chronic liver disease
- high iron intake ~ pills, injections
Hemochromatosis is not often diagnosed or treated early because its initial symptoms tend to be vague, similar to many other diseases and testing for iron overload is hardly routine. Early indistinct symptoms of hemochromatosis are:
If iron overload caused by hemochromatosis is diagnosed and treated before organ damage, living a normal, healthy life can be expected.
As more iron builds up in your body due to hemochromatosis, more distinct symptoms begin to emerge, like:
- loss of sex drive
- early menopause
- liver enlargement
- testicle shrinkage
- heart problems ~ chest pain, dyspnea, arrhythmias
Once you have reached the advanced state of hemochromatosis, your symptoms relate more to various organ failing conditions due to long term iron overload, such as:
- heart failure
- severe fatigue
- chronic stomach pain
- adrenal gland damage
- skin color ~ yellowish skin, tan skin, reddish palms
- inadequate liver function ~ cirrhosis, failure, cancer
- high blood sugar level ~ glucose intolerance, diabetes
- pituitary and thyroid glands hormone production reduction
It is imperative that you catch on to your body’s iron absorption overloading and start a blood letting treatment before you reach this iron level of destruction.
Treatments for hemochromatosis include therapeutic phlebotomy, iron chelation therapy and dietary changes. The main goal of these treatments is to get your iron overload level down to normal and keep it there.
The most common treatment for iron overload is draining out some of your blood, in a process known as therapeutic phlebotomy. As quick and easy as donating blood.
Initially, phlebotomy therapy will remove about a pint of blood a couple of times per week. Once your iron levels are determined to be normal, this life long phlebotomy routine will scale back to about every 3 months.
Iron chelation therapy uses medicine to remove excess iron from your body. Injected iron chelation therapy is a muscle, skin or vein injection given in your doctor’s office. Oral iron chelation therapy is a “take at home” medication that binds with extra iron and is excreted through your feces.
In addition to iron chelation and phlebotomy therapy, you will likely be advised to adjust your diet for hemochromatosis. Main adjustments may simply be:
- limit alcohol intake
- zero iron supplementation
- limit vitamin C intake ~ increases iron absorption
- no uncooked fish, shellfish ~ contain bacteria causing “iron overload susceptible” infection
Unless you are specifically advised to take iron supplements, such as with iron deficiency anemia, leave the supply of this mineral up to your healthy diet.
And request an iron overload test early in your life!