What Causes Too Much Iron In The Human Body & How To Reduce?

Iron overload or an excess of iron in the body, even in mild cases can increase the risk for liver diseases, heart attack, diabetes mellitus, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, hypothyroidism, and even premature death.

Hemochromatosis causes the body to absorb large quantities of iron from the food that you eat. The surplus iron gets stored in various organs, chiefly, the heart, liver and pancreas.

Undue amounts of iron can cause life threatening conditions, such as liver impairment, heart problems and diabetes.

The treatment comprises of regularly getting rid of blood from the body, given that, much of the iron is contained in the red blood cells; thus, this helps lower iron levels significantly.

Signs & Symptoms Of Too Much Iron In The Body

An overload of iron manifests as pain in the abdomen, joint pains, exhaustion, loss of libido, impotence and diabetes. Hereditary hemochromatosis is present since birth. But, most people experience signs and symptoms later on in life. In women the symptoms tend to become apparent after menopause, when they no longer lose iron with menstruation and pregnancy.

Common manifestations include:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Depression
  • Pains in the joints
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Liver disorders
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Heart attack
  • Skin color changes
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Hair loss
  • Infertility
  • Hypogonadism
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Hypopituitarism
  • An early commencement of neurodegenerative disorders.

What Causes High Iron Levels In The Body?

  • An overload of iron can be inherited or acquired.
  • If you have received many blood transfusions, have taken iron injections, or consume high levels of iron supplement; you will have surplus iron in your body.
  • Genetic disorders which cause iron overload include – hereditary hemochromatosis, African iron overload, thalessemia, sickle cell disease, X-linked sideroblastic anemia, and enzyme deficiencies.
  • Polycythemia vera is another condition wherein your bone marrow manufactures large quantities of blood cells (RBC, WBC and platelets). Those having polycythemia vera have abnormally high hemoglobin levels and are at great peril of developing stroke and acute myelogenous leukemia.

How To Remove Excess Iron From Body?

The treatment for managing surplus iron is iron reduction therapy. Iron is eliminated from the body therapeutically in two ways – phlebotomy and chelation therapy. The treatment regimen employed, the quantity of iron removed, dietary and behavioral alterations will all vary based upon the patient’s iron levels, age, general health, and capacity to endure the selected therapy.

  • The hemoglobin count is a vital factor in your doctor’s choice of iron reduction therapy. If the hemoglobin level is ample and your body can tolerate blood removal, then your doctor will have you do therapeutic phlebotomy – i.e. blood removal or he may recommend that you habitually donate blood. Doctors prescribe therapeutic phlebotomy for those who have lot of iron stored in the body and whose hemoglobin levels are adequate to put up with blood removal. Each phlebotomy treatment gets rid of approximately 500 cc of blood and helps decrease the quantity of iron in the body by around 250 milligrams.
  • When a patient’s hemoglobin is too low to carry out a phlebotomy, iron reduction is done by iron chelation – which is the elimination of iron using certain specific drugs.
  • In some cases, the doctor will employ a combination of the two therapies.