What is hemochromatosis and what symptoms can indicate it?
Hemochromatosis is a condition that is characterized by increased absorption of iron from the food. Even though people generally tend to absorb about 10 % of iron, those who suffer from this condition absorb as much as 30 % of the iron from the food. Over time, the person with this condition can accumulate even 20 times more iron than it is normal. This condition is also hereditary and it is not always easy to diagnose it. It might cause serious damage to the liver, heart and pancreas, because in the tissues of these organs extra amounts of iron are stored. This is why the symptoms that might indicate this condition are the symptoms of various diseases that are related to these organs, particularly the liver. Pain in the upper part of the abdomen, pain in the joints, fatigue, amenorrhea and decreased sex drive are some of the most frequent signs. As for the period of life in which they begin to appear, people who are between 30 and 50 years old seem to be more frequently affected than others. Women who are in menopause are also at higher risk of developing the symptoms because they do not lose iron with periods as they used to.
When it comes to risk groups, besides those whose family members suffer from this condition, people who are at higher risk of getting hereditary hemochromatosis are those from the Northern Europe and according to statistics, male population is much more likely to develop the signs early.
How to treat it and can it be cured?
Since this condition is congenital, it cannot be cured, but there are some ways in which it can be treated effectively. Phlebotomy or removal of blood from time to time can help in lowering the levels of iron, but the amount that will be removed depends on factors such as age, overall health and accumulated iron. It is necessary to start with the treatment in order to prevent serious damage to the organs and serious diseases that threaten to affect these organs. If a person already suffers from some condition due to hemochromatosis, in this way it is possible to prevent its progression. Still, it is important to know that not everyone can undergo phlebotomy, and for those people there are medications that can help the body to get rid of certain amount of iron from the blood.