Hemochromatosis: Too Much Iron in the Body & Blood
You've heard of the problems associated with not getting enough iron, but if you get too much you may also be putting your health at risk. Iron overload is called hemochromatosis and it can be dangerous. Too much iron can damage your organs, in particular the liver, heart, and pancreas.
Symptoms of hemochromatosis are similar to feeling rundown, or to signs of other conditions, so it can be difficult to spot. You may be very tired, feel weak, lose weight, suffer from abdominal and joint pain, or feel a fluttering sensation in the chest.
If iron builds up significantly in your body you can suffer from arthritis due to hemochromatosis. Other severe symptoms include:
- Missed periods or early menopause
- Loss of sex drive and male impotence
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Altered heart rate and rhythm
- Changes in skin coloration to gray, yellow or bronze
Hemochromatosis is one of the most common genetic diseases in the United States. When it's not hereditary, it can be caused by other diseases that contribute to iron overload, or from years of consuming too much iron. Receiving excessive blood transfusions or kidney dialysis can also cause hemochromatosis.
Treatment for iron overload depends on the level of iron you have in your blood. The excess is usually removed first through phlebotomy, a simple and safe method of giving blood which takes place once or twice a week for a few months. Sufferers then continue to give blood every two to four months. If you can't give blood, you can take medicine to correct iron overload.
Although treatment cannot cure all the problems caused by hemochromatosis, it will help with most. Most people with hemochromatosis are able to lead a normal, healthy life.
Reference URL: http://www.womenshealth.gov/faq/anemia.cfm#13