Iron overload disorder: Symptoms, causes, and treatment

Iron overload disorders are a group of medical conditions that cause the soundbox to store excess iron. They include familial hemochromatosis, a familial condition in which a person ’ sulfur body absorbs besides much iron from foods and drinks. The soundbox can not excrete surfeit iron, so it stores it in sealed organs, notably the liver, heart, and pancreas, which can lead to organ damage. damage to the pancreas can cause diabetes. Excess iron can, without discussion, besides turn the bark a tan color. With treatment, people with this condition have a effective lookout. Treatments may include drawing blood to reduce the consistency ’ s iron levels and making dietary changes to reduce iron inhalation.

In this article, we look at the types, causes, symptoms, and treatment of cast-iron overload disorder.

What are iron overload disorders?

a man looking tired because her has Iron overload disorder contribution on PinterestA person with iron overload disorder may experience tiredness and fatigue. In a healthy body, when the stores of iron are sufficient, the intestines reduce the absorption of this mineral from food and drink to prevent its levels from rising besides high gear. People with iron overload disorders absorb more iron than usual from food or supplements. The body can not excrete the extra iron fast enough, so it continues to build up. The consistency stores it in organ tissue, chiefly in the liver-colored, a well as the heart and the pancreas. There are respective types of cast-iron overload perturb. familial hemochromatosis is a primary circumstance that has a genic component. People can besides have secondary hemochromatosis, which develops as a resultant role of another disease or condition .


There are several types of iron overload disorderliness, each with different causes :

Primary hemochromatosis: A genetic mutation

ancestral hemochromatosis, which people may besides refer to as primary or classic hemochromatosis, is one of the most common genic conditions in the United States. not everyone with the condition experiences symptoms. This condition largely affects white people. According to a 2018 report, about 1 in 200 white people in the United States and Australia have familial hemochromatosis, and 10–14 % of each of these populations carry the familial mutations. familial hemochromatosis occurs due to a mutant in a gene called HFE. This gene controls the come of iron that the body absorb. Two potential mutations in the HFE gene are C282Y and H63D. In the U.S., most people with familial hemochromatosis have inherited two copies of C282Y, one from the mother and the other from the father. A person who inherits just one defective gene is not certain to develop iron overload syndrome, but they will be a aircraft carrier, and they will probably absorb more iron than normal. If both parents are carriers, there is a 1 in 4 probability that their child will have two defective genes, one from each rear. however, some people with two copies of the C282Y mutant never have symptoms. Some people inherit one C282Y mutation and one H63D mutation. A small proportion of these people will develop hemochromatosis symptoms. Inheriting two copies of H63D is rare, and research has not even confirmed whether this may increase the risk of hemochromatosis .

Secondary hemochromatosis: The result of a condition

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute ( NHLBI ), secondary coil hemochromatosis can result from some kinds of anemia, such as thalassemia, or chronic liver disease, such as chronic hepatitis C infection or alcohol-related liver disease. Blood transfusions, taking oral iron pills, or having iron injections or long-run kidney dialysis can besides cause junior-grade hemochromatosis .

Juvenile hemochromatosis

juvenile hemochromatosis is an inherit condition that results from defects in a gene called HJV. Iron builds up earlier in life, and symptoms appear between the ages of 15 and 30 years. Symptoms include diabetes and problems with sexual development. Without discussion, it can be fateful .

Neonatal hemochromatosis

In newborns with neonatal hemochromatosis, iron can accumulate then fast in the liver-colored that the baby is either stillborn or does not survive long after birth. Research suggests that the cause is not genic. It may happen because the mother ’ second immune arrangement produces antibodies that damage the fetal liver-colored.

Risk factors

The pursuit gamble factors may increase a person ’ s likelihood of having hemochromatosis :

  • Genetic factors: Having two copies of a faulty HFE gene is the main risk factor for hereditary hemochromatosis. The person inherits one copy of the mutated HFE gene from each parent. H refers to high, and FE means iron.
  • Family history: A person with a parent, child, brother, or sister with hemochromatosis is more likely to have it.
  • Ethnicity: According to the NHLBI, Caucasian people of Northern European descent have a higher risk of having the HFE gene mutation and of developing hemochromatosis. They note that it is less common in people of African American, Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian descent.
  • Gender: Iron overload affects both males and females, although it may have a less significant effect on females. The reason for this is that most females regularly lose blood during menstruation, and blood loss reduces iron levels. Males may develop symptoms at the age of about 40–60 years, and females may have symptoms after menopause.


The signs and symptoms of iron clog disorder are much balmy, and a 2019 source reports that in 3 out of 4 cases, people with iron clog show no symptoms. Signs normally do not appear until middle long time or, in females, after menopause. Nowadays, people with hemochromatosis are less likely to develop symptoms because diagnosis tends to take place earlier than it did in the past. If the discipline advances, the main symptoms include :

  • tiredness or fatigue
  • weakness
  • weight loss
  • abdominal pain
  • high blood sugar levels
  • hyperpigmentation, or the skin turning a bronze color
  • a loss of libido, or sex drive
  • in males, reduction in the size of the testicles
  • in females, reduced or absent menstruation

In time, the pursuit conditions may develop :

  • arthritis
  • liver disease or cirrhosis (permanent scarring) of the liver
  • enlargement of the liver
  • diabetes
  • hypothyroidism
  • heart disease
  • pancreatitis

Diagnosing hemochromatosis

hemochromatosis can be difficult to diagnose from the symptoms as these can overlap with the symptoms of other conditions. A repair may decide to refer the person to a hepatologist ( a liver-colored specialist ) or a cardiologist ( a center specialist ). Some tests can help doctors diagnose hemochromatosis. These include blood tests, liver tests, MRI scans, and familial test. Two different types of rake test can detect cast-iron overload, even before symptoms appear. The serum transferrin saturation test measures the total of cast-iron bound to transferrin — a protein that carries cast-iron in the blood. Saturation values of more than 45 % are besides high. The serum ferritin test measures the measure of iron that the body has stored. Knowing these levels helps a doctor of the church diagnose a person and monitor them during treatment. Doctors need to perform both rake tests, and they may need to repeat them for increased accuracy, as early conditions can besides raise ferritin levels. These are not routine blood tests, and doctors normally only perform them if person has a parent, child, or sibling with hemochromatosis. however, people may besides undergo these tests if they have any of the postdate signs, symptoms, and conditions :

  • diabetes
  • elevated liver enzymes
  • erectile dysfunction
  • extreme tiredness
  • heart disease
  • joint disease

In people who consume excessive amounts of alcohol or those who have had many rake transfusions or hepatitis C, the results of these rake tests may suggest iron clog. These extra tests can help confirm a diagnosis of familial hemochromatosis :

  • genetic testing can determine whether the person carries the HFE gene.
  • MRI scans to check iron levels in the liver
  • a liver biopsy can determine iron levels in the liver and reveal any cirrhosis or other damage, but this test is less common nowadays


If a person receives early diagnosis and treatment, they normally have a normal life sentence anticipation. They should have even blood tests, though, and treatment typically continues for life. There are several treatments for iron overload disorders :


Phlebotomy, or venesection, is a regular treatment to remove iron-rich lineage from the torso. normally, this will need to take set hebdomadally until levels return to normal. When iron levels build up again, the person will need to repeat the treatment. How much rake the doctor of the church takes, and how frequently, depends on :

  • the person’s age and sex
  • the person’s overall health
  • the severity of the iron overload

Doctors may remove 1 pint of blood once or doubly each week in the early stages of discussion. After this, they may remove blood every 2–4 months. Phlebotomy can not reverse cirrhosis, but it can improve symptoms, such as nausea, abdominal annoyance, and fatigue. It may besides improve heart serve and joint trouble .


Iron chelation therapy involves taking oral or inject medicine to remove surfeit iron from the soundbox. Medications can include a drug that binds the excess iron before the body excretes it. Although doctors do not tend to recommend this as a first-line treatment for hemochromatosis, it may be desirable for some people .

Dietary changes

dietary changes to limit cast-iron inhalation can help reduce symptoms. dietary changes can include :

  • avoiding supplements that contain iron
  • avoiding supplements that contain vitamin C, as this vitamin increases iron absorption
  • reducing iron-rich and iron-fortified foods
  • avoiding uncooked fish and shellfish
  • limiting alcohol intake, as this can damage the liver


Without treatment, an accumulation of iron can lead to health complications, such as :

  • cirrhosis
  • a higher chance of liver cancer relating to cirrhosis or hemochromatosis
  • diabetes and associated complications
  • congestive heart failure if too much iron builds up in the heart and the body cannot circulate enough blood
  • irregular heart rhythms, or arrhythmias, leading to chest pain, palpitations, and dizziness
  • endocrine problems, such as hypothyroidism or hypogonadism
  • arthritis, osteoarthritis, or osteoporosis
  • bronze or gray skin due to the deposits of iron in skin cells

early complications can include depression, gallbladder disease, and some cancers. According to the Iron Disorders Institute, some autopsies have revealed that people with neurodegenerative diseases — such as Alzheimer ’ s disease, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy — had problems with cast-iron levels in the brain.


Iron overload disorders, such as primary hemochromatosis, involve excess levels of iron building up in the body. Without treatment, the stipulate can cause serious complications, and it can be biography threatening.

In 2007, canadian researchers concluded that hemochromatosis is a “ common and relatively bare genetic disease to treat. ” With treatment, people can have a normal life anticipation, particularly with early diagnosis and effective management .

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