Haemochromatosis - do you have too much iron in your blood?

The Low down on Haemochromatosis

Do you suffer from Diabetes, do you have Joint pain, do you have an Irregular Heartbeat, do you suffer from Chronic Fatigue? Well, get ready. You might be suffering from having an excess of iron in your blood, you might have Haemochromatosis. Trying to avoid iron is trying to avoid Oxygen, there is just so much of it in the world, it is after all the 2nd most common mineral on earth. And animal and plant life can’t survive without it. Most of the time, out bodies maintain a fine balance between our daily need for Iron and the amount that is absorbed from our food. Since this week we are dealing with health matters, its well worth discussing one of the less well-known medical problems suffered by many people.

People who have Haemochromatosis are those with a fault in this balancing process. What has happened is, that over the years these people have absorbed and accumulated too much iron, which has lead to a condition called “Iron overload”. If it goes unnoticed, and untreated, all that stored Iron can cause problems for us, particularly organ or tissue damage, and it can be FATAL.

Haemochromatosis is a condition that runs in families, so it’s a hereditary disorder. And it is actually one of the most common genetic problems found amongst Celtic people. It tends to run in individuals whose father and mother carry a defective gene. In wider Europe, roughly between 1 in 30 and 1 in 400 people have a serious potential to develop Iron Overload. The highest incidence of this condition is found in Ireland, where 1 person in 83 has the two genes and so is predisposed to developing Iron Overload. 1 in 5 people who are Irish are carriers of the gene.

What’s insidious about this condition is that it takes years for iron build-up to occur. Men for the most part will start showing the symptoms earlier than women. There are simple reasons for this. Women lose blood through menstruation and child-birth. Sometimes Iron build-up begins early, some may even require treatment in their teens. But there are some people who will have no clinical symptoms at all.

Symptoms

WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND THE SYMPTOMS?

The most common of all the symptoms noticed by people with iron overload are:

Chronic fatigue – tiredness, lethargy
Joint pain – generalised aches and pains
Abdominal pain – vague and non-specific
Sexual dysfunction – loss of one’s sex drive

There are other signs that your doctor can easily test for – they include:

Irregular heart beat
Diabetes
Hormonal change
Enlarged liver
Joint damage

The Symptoms mentioned here can form part of other medical illnesses, and only a doctor should make a diagnosis of Haemochromatosis.

HOW IS A DIAGNOSIS MADE?

A simple blood test to check your iron status can be done and will confirm or rule out iron overload. The blood test will measure:

1. Transferrin Saturation – this is the ratio of Serum Iron to Total Iron Binding Capacity.
2. Serum Ferritin (an iron-storage protein: a high or raised level of this may indicate an iron-overload)

· A genetic test for the known mutations will confirm the diagnosis. Close relatives – i.e. siblings or offspring of someone with Haemochromatosis should think of being tested for the condition with their GP or hospital specialist.

CAN HAEMOCHROMATOSIS BE TREATED?

The treatment is simple and effective. If the condition is detected and found early before any organ damage occurs, the person will have a normal life expectancy. The earlier the iron overload is detected, the less chance of complications occurring.

If damage has already begun to occur, then treatment can prevent further damage. A person’s outlook depends on serious the damage is. The treatment for lowering stored iron may be called Phlebotomy or Venesection, and is the same procedure as one gets when giving a blood donation. This is considered the safest and most effective way of reducing stored iron. The purpose of the treatment is to reduce stored iron (Ferritin) in body tissue to the lower end of the normal range , while avoiding anaemia.

In the beginning, the treatment will mean weekly or twice weekly Phlebotomy so as to rapidly reduce Ferritin levels, then, when normal levels are achieved, maintenance may only require 3 or 4 sessions per year for the remainder of life. The sooner the iron levels are normalised, the better prospects are for the patient.

Some additional facts about Haemochromatosis:

The first case of Iron overload was medically described in 1865, and was for a while known as “Bronze Diabetes”. It was named Haemochromatosis around 1889. Haemo refers to blood, chromat is colour, and any kind of “osis” is a condition. One study revealed that 95% of sufferers never heard of it before being diagnosed with it.

A man has about 4 grams of iron in his blood, while a woman about 3.5 grams. A man will absorb about 1milligram of iron from food, while a woman will absorb about 2 mgs daily. Tobacco smoke contains iron and gets absorbed directly into the blood. Vitamin C, Iron supplements, iron-fortified foods and alcohol can all speed up iron intake into the body. One of the major genes linked to Haemochromatosis was identified in 1996 and is called C282Y. Other genes are known to be involved in iron absorption and much research is ongoing in this area.

This information is for reading purposes and cannot be used for self-diagnosis. If you have any worries about your health, then always contact your G.P. or any hospital specialist. Don’t take health matters for granted. This is to promote awareness and provide information to prevent suffering.


Copyright Cassy Mantis / Cheeky Girl (c) 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. All rights reserved.

Comments 18 comments

Cheeky Girl profile image

Cheeky Girl 6 years ago from UK and Nerujenia Author

I will be doing some more health related HUBS on Health matters, soon.


Seb 6 years ago

Some people have never even heard of this. This is interesting, thank you for it


Cheeky Girl profile image

Cheeky Girl 6 years ago from UK and Nerujenia Author

To Seb:

Thankyou Seb. Yes - this is something that a lot of people from certain parts of the world have. Apparently they don't know it until they are diagnosed. Thankfully it is treatable. I did not want to be alarmist here. Please check in often. Ciao.


ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 6 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

This is a very helpful hub. I guess too much of something is never good huh?


Cheeky Girl profile image

Cheeky Girl 6 years ago from UK and Nerujenia Author

To ripplemaker:

Yes, sadly it is true. This is my first health-related hub, I just finished and published one on migrains and headaches and osteopaths. People dont seem to know much about them, so it prompted me to do a hub.

Thank you for your feedback, ripplemaker. I couldn't help but add, I saw that some flooding and bad weather struck your "neck of the woods". Looked pretty bad. I hope you are not affected by it, and that things are ok with you. Stay healthy. CG.


ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 6 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Yes, there is flooding in certain parts of our country and glad the other super typhoon has left. In the city where I lived, we are okay and doing our share in helping our fellow brothers and sisters. Thanks for the concern. Take care too. :)


Cheeky Girl profile image

Cheeky Girl 6 years ago from UK and Nerujenia Author

To ripplemaker:

Gosh, you are most welcome! Its a beautiful part of the world, and it left an impression on me! Take care!


watcher by night profile image

watcher by night 6 years ago

Hee hee... that "treatment for lowering stored iron" sounds downright medieval... so maybe they knew a little bit what they were about back in times of old. Thanks for a good hub on a subject that's important to know about (even if it pushes me a little closer towards become a hypochondriac, lol).


Cheeky Girl profile image

Cheeky Girl 6 years ago from UK and Nerujenia Author

@ watcher by night: The technology in medicine is getting better all the time, and I am sure they are working on better ways to lower stored iron instead of having to go through that process. I hope I haven't turned you into a hypochondriac! Heh! Thanks for the comments.


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 6 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

As a blood banker for over 30 years, I have heard of Hemachromatosis as we call it on this side of the pond. It's almost as bad as sickle cell anemia in African descendants. Really the two diseases compliment each other. One needs to give blood, the other needs to receive blood. Kind of like yin and yang. Always amazing the ways of blood.


Cheeky Girl profile image

Cheeky Girl 6 years ago from UK and Nerujenia Author

Hy Austinstar: wow, you are blood banker so you know this stuff! Yes it is amazing. We can't live without it. The way you say it there with the sickle cell anemia, it's kind of ironic, isn't it. It seems that one man's meat is another man's poison. Cheers! Thanks for this!


Research Analyst profile image

Research Analyst 6 years ago

This is the first I have heard of this one, usually I read about anemia and not having enough iron so this is a different approach to the topic, thanks for sharing.


Cheeky Girl profile image

Cheeky Girl 6 years ago from UK and Nerujenia Author

Hello Research Analyst! Good to see you here again. Yes, Haemochromatosis is a thing that lots of people have not heard about or know much about it either. But I am hoping through my hub to inform people about the condition. It can be dealt with with medical intervention. Glad to share with you, moi friend. Take care always!


D.Virtual.Doctor profile image

D.Virtual.Doctor 5 years ago from Europe

This is such an awesome hub. Its an invaluable information for people with such ailments to know. Not only for such people but even for healthy individuals too, for a good spread and proper education. Nice hub and thanks for sharing..


Cheeky Girl profile image

Cheeky Girl 5 years ago from UK and Nerujenia Author

Hello D.Virtual.Doctor:

thanks for these great comments here. It is surprising how a lot of people still are not aware of the dangers of Haemochromatosis, and having too much iron in the blood. I am all for helping and educating people all I can. Cheers. I appreciate this. :)


Cheeky Girl profile image

Cheeky Girl 5 years ago from UK and Nerujenia Author

Hy Mark, thanks for the comments. You'd be surprised how little is known about this condition. Cheers!


tsadjatko profile image

tsadjatko 5 years ago from maybe (the guy or girl) next door

Yes it is amazing that the simple ferritin blood test is not part of a routine blood test for adults especially over 50 years old - many illnesses and deaths could have been prevented - I found this website very helpful http://www.americanhs.org/about.htm and another sad story. Appreciate your sreading the awareness.


Cheeky Girl profile image

Cheeky Girl 5 years ago from UK and Nerujenia Author

Hello tsadjatko: people ought to get more blood checks for Haemochromatosis, as early detection can help the person more. The earlier it is detected the better. You make an excellent point here. Thanks for the link also. I appreciate the comment. Cheers!

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