Submitted by Brandi Krajewski, Marketing Director
July is National Hemochromatosis Screening and Awareness Month. Hemochromatosis is an iron disorder where the body simply loads too much iron. This action is genetic and the excess iron, if left untreated, can damage joints, organs, and can eventually be fatal.
There are several types of hemochromatosis; type 1, also called Classic Hemochromatosis (HHC) is a leading cause of iron overload disease. People with HHC (too much iron) absorb extra amounts of iron from the daily diet. The human body cannot rid itself of extra iron. Over time, these excesses build up in major organs such as the heart, liver, pancreas, joints, and pituitary. If the extra iron is not removed, these organs can become diseased.
Undiagnosed and untreated Hemochromatosis (too much iron) increased the risk for diseases and conditions such as diabetes mellitus, irregular heart beat, heart attack, arthritis (osteoarthristis, osteoporosis), cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer, gall bladder disease, depression, impotence, infertility, hypothyroidism, hypogonadism, and some cancers. Mismanaged iron in the brain has been observed in autopsies of people with neurodegenerative diseases: Alzheimer’s, early onset Parkinson’s, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and Huntington’s disease.
Chronic fatigue and joint pain are the most common complaints of people with hemochromatosis. For this reason, the complete diagnosis is often delayed because these two symptoms are commonly seen in other diseases. Pain in the knuckles of the pointer and middle finger “THE IRON FIST” is the only sign or symptom specific to hemochromatosis, but not everyone with HHC experiences the Iron Fist.
Some complain of the following symptoms with Hemochromatosis. However, these symptoms are not specific to hemochromatosis:
Lack of Energy
Loss of Sex Drive
Irregular Heart Flutters
When symptoms are associated with hemochromatosis, these usually begin in men in their late 20’s to early 30’s. In women, symptoms usually start about 10-15 years after they stop having a period due to menopause, birth control pills, or hysterectomy.
It is very important to get iron levels down to normal. Therapeutic blood removal or phlebotomy is the most common means of iron reduction. Therapeutic phlebotomy (TP) is the same as regular blood donation but TP requires a doctor’s order (Prescription).
When hemochromatosis is diagnosed early and treated before organs are damaged a person can live a normal life expectancy. For people who have disease at the time of diagnosis, life expectancy may be shortened depending upon the disease.
Winston Medical Center can provide all laboratory testing without you having to drive out of town! All person has to do is contact his or her physician and make an appointment and he/she can order the necessary tests to find out if you have hemochromatosis.