Hemochromatosis is a genetic condition where the body absorbs excessive iron. If not treated, it can lead to organ damage. Blood testing is carried out to check if an individual has hemochromatosis. Treatment to manage the condition is readily available but required for life.
Among those with hemochromatosis, excessive amount of iron is absorbed from the stomach, resulting to iron overload. This can damage the heart, liver and the pancreas.
Many individuals develop symptoms between the age of 30-60. At the early phase, most do not have any symptoms.
- Weakness or tiredness
- Joint pain
- Abdominal pain
- Unexplained tanning of the skin
If treatment is not started, the ensuing organ damage can lead to the following:
- Liver issues
- Thyroid problems
- Heart issues
- Diabetes due to damage to the pancreas
- Loss of sex drive or erection issues
How is it diagnosed
If a family member has been diagnosed with hemochromatosis, genetic testing is required to check if an individual carries the gene.
A blood test reveals the amount of iron present in the blood. The condition is not the only cause of excess iron in the blood. Other tests are needed such as genetic testing. Oftentimes, a liver biopsy is performed to check if there is damage to the liver.
Even today, there is no cure for hemochromatosis but there are measures to keep it under control.
Health can be maintained by:
- Strictly following a diet low in iron if recommended by a doctor
- Avoid using vitamin C supplements since these increase the absorption of iron
- Reduce the consumption of alcohol or stop drinking if the liver is damaged
The individual is also encouraged to have his/her blood taken out regularly which is a process called as venesection. If done regularly, it lowers the level of iron and can lead to an overall improvement in health.