Iron is an essential element of hemoglobin which transports oxygen to each and every cell of the body. Iron virtually takes part in almost all functions of body since oxygen is required in every cell to produce energy. Most people know that less amount of iron in their body is detrimental to their health, but very few are aware of the devastating effect of high iron level in blood.
High blood iron occurs when the body is overloaded with iron. Several conditions are characterized by high iron in blood. One such condition is called hematochromatois.It is a genetic disorder, in which there is excess deposition of iron in liver, heart and other vital organs of the body. All of them are susceptible to serious damage from the free radicals generated by the iron.
It can also result from multiple blood transfusion, excess of parenteral iron therapy, or too much of iron supplements. High iron level in blood can produce several symptoms such as abdominal discomfort, darkened skin, weakness, fatigue, etc. Treatment of high iron level in blood is aimed at removing excess load of iron in the body.It can be effectively managed by removal of blood from time to time, until iron level in blood becomes normal.
What Causes High Iron Levels In Blood?
Normal people do not usually develop high level of iron in their blood because their intestine absorbs only the amount that is required for maintaining optimum amount of iron in blood. However, for people suffering from hematochromatosis, the level may increase if they take iron supplements, or eat iron enriched food or even with consumption iron containing food. The other reasons for high level of iron in blood include:
- Frequent blood transfusion.
- Consuming too much of iron supplements.
- Iron shots or injection.
- Certain diseases such as Sideroblastic anemia, Beta thelassemia, causes increase iron absorption from the intestine.
- Chronic alcoholism. Surprisingly consuming alcohol increases iron absorption.
Other potential risk factors are:
- Cooking in iron pots, especially foods that are acidic will result in high level of iron in blood.
- Drinking water from well which has high iron content.
Symptoms Of High Iron Levels In Blood
High iron level in blood produces certain symptoms depending on the underlying condition or disease. Here are some important symptoms. High level of iron in blood causes damage to vital organs such as liver, heart, skin and even brain.
- Growth and sexual development are delayed in children.
- Delayed puberty.
- Unexplained fatigue and weakness.
- Decreased sexual performance.
- Loss of interest in sex.
- Irregular heartbeats.
- Enlargement of liver.
- Pain in abdomen.
- Excessive melanin pigmentation leading to darkening of skin.
- Pain and stiffness in joints.
- Pain in muscles.
- Weight loss.
- Thin hair and hair loss.
- High blood sugar.
- Frequent mood changes.
High blood level of iron may be associated with an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.
Treatment For High Iron Levels In Blood
Treatment of high level of iron in blood is aimed at removing the excess of iron from the blood. If the condition is identified in its early stage, it can be reversed without causing damage to the vital organs. However, if it is left untreated, it may result in serious complications involving heart, liver and brain.
- One of the ways is to remove blood every week at the rate of 350 ml. The procedure is called phlebotomy.
- At the same time patient is advised to avoid taking iron supplements and drinking well water. Also avoid eating food prepared in iron pots and cookware.
- Certain herbs such as green tea, rosemary tea are useful as it reduces iron absorption. People, who are at greater risk or have high level of iron in their blood, benefit from these herbs.
- Herbs such as dandelion, milk thistle are effective in removing excess of iron from the body.
- In some patients where phlebotomy is contraindicated due to low hemoglobin level, iron chelation therapy with certain drugs has proved beneficial.