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Hemochromatosis: causes, symptoms and treatment

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

The hemochromatosis is a genetic disease involving an excess of iron in the body. This iron overload in the body can be caused by genetic reasons or by suffering from other diseases that generate it. People who suffer from hemochromatosis suffer for years in the liver, pancreas, heart, joints and hormonal systems, in addition to being able to lead to liver cancer. Currently, there are two treatments available to treat excess iron in the body, and their application will depend on the cause of the disorder. Its treatment is necessary in all cases in order to control excess iron and avoid possible damage that may pose serious health risks to the patient. In this FastlyHealarticle we inform you about thecauses, symptoms and treatment of hemochromatosis .

Iron function

Iron plays a vital role in providing oxygen to the body . This is part of hemoglobin helping to capture oxygen from the lungs and transport it to reach the entire body. Once the oxygen reaches the different places in the body, the iron is stored in deposits.

Another of the functions of iron is to strengthen the immune system . In this way, iron helps defend the body against colds and respiratory diseases, in addition to other ailments. When people have an iron deficiency or excess, two main things can happen:

  • Iron deficiency : the body loses a high amount of iron, which causes anemia. In this case, an iron- rich anemia diet is highly recommended.
  • Iron excess : the opposite effect that the previous one takes place, reason why the body accumulates iron in excess. It is in this case we speak of hemochromatosis.

Causes of hemochromatosis

The causes of hemochromatosis are divided into two:

  • Primary hemochromatosis . The excess of iron in the body is due to a genetic disorder that is transmitted from parents to children. In this case, the affected people absorb excess iron through the digestive tract in an abnormal way.
  • Secondary hemochromatosis . Also known as acquired hemochromatosis, iron overload results from other diseases that affect the blood. Some of these diseases are: thalassemias , hepatitis C, certain types of anemia, people who receive repeated blood transfusions, etc. Also, people who are used to drinking alcohol can develop this blood disorder.

Symptoms of hemochromatosis

At the onset of the disease, when no damage is yet visible, patients may feel fatigued and drowsy, and it is also common for patients to suffer from generalized yellowing due to excess iron. The symptoms of hemochromatosis will vary depending on the organ that is damaged.

  • Liver damage . The liver is usually the most affected organ, which can become inflamed. Liver damage is related to problems with blood clotting, digestive bleeding and accumulation of water in the abdomen, among others.
  • Heart damage . Heart failure that causes fatigue and asthenia, the latter implies the difficulty of performing tasks that would not be a problem under normal conditions. Also, another of the symptoms of hemochromatosis is the presence of arrhythmias, which translates into irregular heartbeat.
  • Damage to the hypothalamus or pituitary . It is experienced from testicular atrophy, sexual impotence, loss of libido, hair loss. In women it is reflected by the absence of menstruation.
  • Pancreatic damage . The appearance of diabetes mellitus due to pancreatic lesions is frequent, which must be treated in the same way as normal diabetes.
  • Joint damage . Some ailments such as osteoarthritis and arthritis can be other symptoms of hemochromatosis, when it affects the joints. Conditions in the hand are the most frequent, although they can occur in other parts such as the hip.
  • Skin damage . Darkening of the skin, in addition to hair loss.

Treatment of homochromatosis

The treatment of homochromatosis will vary mainly from the cause that causes the disorder. In the event that the cause is genetic, treatment is carried out through phlebotomies. When hemochromatosis is secondary, that is, acquired, the treatment that is applied is the use of iron chelators. Also, patients suffering from hemochromatosis should avoid drinking alcohol and certain foods.

Phlebotomy treatment

It consists of carrying out weekly blood draws, of 500 ml each, in order to achieve an appropriate iron level. The patient must undergo treatment indefinitely and carry out periodic check-ups.

Iron chelating treatment

Iron chelators are substances that, once they come into contact with iron, adhere to it, creating a substance that prevents iron from having a harmful effect on the body. The most widely used iron chelator is deferoxamine . It has been shown that the treatment of homochromatosis with this chelator guarantees good results in terms of disease progression and prevents early death. It can be administered intramuscularly and subcutaneously. The disadvantage of this treatment is its side effects, which involve pain, allergic reactions, eye and hearing disorders, etc. the dieferipronais another product used as an alternative to deforoxamine. It has the advantage that its administration is simpler, but it also has the disadvantage that it is less effective. Another alternative to the previous treatments with a third chelator called deferasirox , through its daily oral administration. This chelator significantly reduces the iron concentration.

Recommendations for hemochromatosis

  • Hemochromatosis patients should avoid eating foods that are high in iron, such as red meat, raw seafood, and products made with blood, such as blood sausage.
  • Dispense with food supplements and fortified foods.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol and taking other products that can affect iron metabolism.
  • Avoid excessive exposure to the sun and estrogens, as they could aggravate the disease.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Hemochromatosis: causes, symptoms and treatment , we recommend that you enter our category of Blood, heart and circulation .

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