Iron Overload (also called Hemochromatosis or Haemochromatosis)

Iron is essential for every cell in the body, yet too much can be toxic. Excess iron is stored in the body tissues and organs where it injures to the point of death. A normal metabolism for iron protects the body by stoping the absorption of iron beyond daily needs. A person suffering from Haemochromatosis.

IRON OVERLOAD

does not have this protection and will absorb iron to toxic levels. Once absorbed iron is not excreted. Blood loss is the only way to reduce stored iron.

What is iron overload? (also called Hemochromatosis or Haemochromatosis)

Hereditary Haemochromsatosis

IRON OVERLOAD

is an inherited disorder of iron metabolism in which the body absorbs and stores excessive iron from the diet. It is caused by a mutation in the HFE gene on chromossome 6. Around 1 in 7 people in Australia carry one copy of the mutated gene and 1 in 200 people have two copies of the gene (one from each parent). It is a recessive disorder and one needs a copy of the mutation from each parent to develop Haemochromatosis. However there are two mutations in the HFE gene and when a person has one copy of each mutation (which can be inherited from only one parent – compound heterozygous) then that person has a moderate risk of developing Haemochromatosis. Single gene carreiers may also overload. The genes are know as HFE C282Y and H63D, 85-95% of people with HH in Australia have two copies of the C282Y mutation.

Who is at risk of Iron Overload (also called Hemochromatosis or Haemochromatosis)

Both sexes are affected and it is more prevalent in people of Northern Euopean orgins. THe gen is thought to be of Normal Celtic orgin. Haeochromatosis can affect all ages from infants to elderly people, but it starts to express most often between the ages of 30 to 60 years. Women have some protections from menstruation. People with family history of premature death of heart attack, liver disease, diabetes or cancer may also be at high risk.

What are the symptoms of Iron Overload? (also called Hemochromatosis or Haemochromatosis)

Symptoms can vary from different individuals, some being more affected than other. Symptoms may include:

Chronic fatigue/weakness, lethargy, arthiritis joint pain, fibromyaliga, loss of libido or impotence, infertility, amenorrhea – early menopasuse change sin skin colour such as jaundice, tan that never fads (bronze colour), or gray coloured skin, abdominal pain, shortness of breath, arrhythmia, palpiations, dizziness, depression, hair loss, major organ damage, cardiac problems, diabetes, cirrhosis of live, cancer of the liver.

Diagnosis is made by a simple blood test called Serum Iron Studies, which includes;

iron transferrin ferritin, TIBC transferrin saturation.

Normal Range for Iron Studies

Iron ,27umoles/i

Ferritin , 150ug/l

Transferrin Saturation < 45%

It is important to remember that a person can have a low hemoglobin level and high iron levels. Elevated liver function test results, in particualar ALT and ALP levels may indicate high iron levels. In addition to Serum Iron Studies, a DNA test should be ordered when any member of the family has been diagnosed with haemochrmoatosis or is a carrier of the gene. It is important to be tested for both mutiation. A person can still suffer from clinical haemochromatosis without either tof hte genecitc mutionas, and this can be confirmed by a simple Iron Studies requested from your GP. Secondary iron overload is Haemochromaosis and can be cuased from an excess of blood transfusion or iron suppplements.

Iron is essential for every cell in the body, yet too much can be toxic. Excess iron is stored in the body tissues and organs where it injures to the point of death. A normal metabolism for iron protexts the bdoy by stoping the absorption of iron beyond daily needs. A person suffering from Haemochromatosis (iron overload) does not have this protection and will absorb iron to toxic levels. Once absorbed iron is not excreted. Blood loss is hte only way to reduce stored iron.

Treatment of Iron Overload (also called Hemochromatosis or Haemochromatosis)

Treatment of Haemochormosiss consists of venesections (removal of blood as in blood donating). .Removing blood reducse the body’s iron levels. The amoutn of venesections you will require depnends on the degree to which you are overloaded, your doctor will advise you. Threatment is onining andonce diagnosed venesections are necessary for the rest of your life. Ongoing maintenance of this condition as simple as becomeing a regular blood donnor – 2 -3 times a year.

The following is a list of suprises about the nutrient iron:

1. Heterozygosity or single gene expression for Haemochromsatosis is about 14% of the popluation. These people too will overlaod iron if they self medicate with over the coutner iron, vitamin C or drink alcohol to excess. This puts the number of ople in Austrlai with the condidtion at 2.7 million. The estimates for the single and double gene expression are formm studies condiucted in Busselton, WA and pulished in the New England Journal of Medicine. Although universl screening has been suggested ther eis scant progress in this area.

2. Iron can store in all tissues and even crosses the blood brain barrier wher it may trigger or exacerbates some neuro degenerative disease such as Parkinson’s Alzheimer’s and MS.

3. There are an estimated 570,000 diabetics in Australia. Iron overlaod causes some of this diabetes. If this problem is based on iron it
can be treated and the diabetes will arrested and may be reversed. Currently, this population is not being checked for iron.

4. A recent Finnish study found that poeple who donate blood reduce their iron – whcih can prevent heart attachks. This has nothing to do with gentics but applies to everyone.

5. What about iron deficiency anaemia that we all have heard so much about? Serveral years ago athe World Health Orgnaisatioin, thinking that iron deficiency was the world’s worst health promeble. whent ot SAfric gining iron pills to under norurished populac. The recipients all started of the opportunitis infections and parasietes they were all carrying chiefly malari. We know know that being lo in iron is a protection aginst disease. Too much iron compromises the immune system wh9ile it feeds infections. Most labs in this country have normal limits for iron set too high. Anamia is not necessarily iron defiency. Thrue low iron is a in indcation of chronic infection bleeding ulcer or cancer.

For more information contact: Elizabeth – [email protected]

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