Iron overload anemia also called iron overload disorder or Hemochromatosis, is a clinical condition, in which the body absorbs iron more than it is required, causing an accumulation of iron in the body. Iron is required for the formation of haemoglobin, needed for oxygen transport in the body.
The body has a mechanism that regulates iron absorption, so when iron levels are too high, the body lowers the rate of absorption. People with this type of disorder absorbs more iron than the body requires and store it in various organs such as the liver, heart and pancreases. Overtime, the build up of iron causes destruction of organs and could lead to chronic organ diseases and failure.
Symptoms of iron overload anemia
• General weakness
• Pain in the joints
• Weight loss
• Grey-bronze color skin
• Hair loss
• Loss of sex drive
• Foggy memory
• Erectile dysfunction
• Abnormal heartbeat
Causes of iron overload disorder: The causes can be divided into two.
1. If the condition is genetic and cannot be linked to other underlying conditions then it is a primary or classic iron overload anemia. It is the most common case of iron overload anemia. Primary iron overload anemia usually is as a result of a defect in the HFE gene. Carriers of this diseases have only a copy of a defective HFE gene and may not necessarily be symptomatic. But when a person has two copies of HFE defective gene, usually from both parents, the person will most likely develop iron overload anemia.
2. If the condition can be linked with some other underlying conditions, it is known as secondary iron overload anemia. Secondary iron overload anemia can happen as a result of blood transfusion, liver diseases, thalassemia, anemia and other conditions.
Diagnosis will be determined based on observed signs and symptoms, family history or other underlying conditions and tests. Some tests such as; blood test, transferrin saturation, Serum ferritin may also be carried out by your physician to help detect iron levels.
Treatment is done by regularly removing blood from your body also known as vanesection. The rate at which blood is removed from your body depends on the severity, your age and medical history.
Initial treatment: Blood is drawn out of your body on regular basis until your iron levels is normal.
Maintenance treatment: Blood will be drawn out of your body but not on regular basis. This will be determined by how fast your body build’s up iron. Your doctor may also advise you to reduce your iron intake by avoiding iron rich foods such as; spinach, shellfish, pumpkin seeds and liver, supplements, and vitamin C because it aids in the adsorption of iron.
The accumulation of iron in the body if left untreated, can cause damage to the organs and lead to further complications such as:
• Heart failure