What is Hemochromatosis?
What are the Symptoms?
Some genetic defect can causes hemochromatosis, but most people do not experience any symptoms until later in life. Women are more likely to have symptoms after menopause, when they no longer lose iron with menstruation and pregnancy.
Some people have no symptoms for hemochromatosis, while others may experience a wide range of symptoms. Some of symptoms include:
- Arthritis, especially in your hands
- Chronic fatigue
- Loss of sex drive or impotence
- Lack of normal menstruation
- Abdominal pain
- High blood sugar levels
In advanced stages of the disease, you may develop severe conditions such as:
- Cirrhosis — a condition marked by irreversible scarring of the liver
- Liver failure
- Liver cancer
- Congestive heart failure
- Cardiac arrhythmia
Long Term Affects
Hemochromatosis can cause liver disease, liver failure, liver cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, impotence for men, and infertility and loss of periods for women.
How is Hemochromatosis diagnosed?
Hemochromatosis is diagnosed through blood tests that measure the presence of iron levels. If your doctor thinks liver damage has occured, a liver biopsy can be done to check for the amount of iron in the liver and for liver damage.
Doctors can treat hemochromatosis safely by removing blood from your body on a regular basis, much similar like donating blood. But in some cases, the goal is to decrease the iron levels. The amount of blood drawn depends on your age, your overall health and the severity of iron. Some people may need many phlebotomies to reduce the iron levels.
Normally, you may have a pint of blood taken once or twice a week usually in a hospital or your doctor’s clinic. While you recline in a chair, a needle is inserted into a vein in your arm. The blood flows from the needle into a tube that’s attached to a blood bag. Depending on your veins and the consistency of your blood, the time needed to remove a pint of blood can range from 10 to 30 minutes. Once your iron levels have returned to normal, you may only need to have blood drawn four times a year.
How to stay healthy?
- Check-ups – It is important to have the normal amount of iron in your blood, therefore, it is mandatory to have check-ups.
- Food – Do not eat raw fish or raw shellfish. Raw fish and shellfish contain germs. Cooking destroys germs harmful to people with iron overload.
- Alcohol – Do not drink alcohol, if you have liver damage. If you choose to drink alcohol, drink very little.
- Iron pills – Do not take pills that have iron. Eating foods that contain iron is sufficient enough for your body.
- Vitamin C – Vitamin C increases the amount of iron your body absorbs. Don’t take vitamin C pills. Eating foods with vitamin C is enough.
- Exercise – You can exercise on daily basis to help reduce Hemochromatosis.