Iron Overload in Females

Blood test for high iron levels in females

What is high iron levels (hemochromatosis)?

High iron levels is an acquired (genetic) condition in which there is excessive build-up of iron in the body (iron overload). It is a common congenital disease among Caucasians in the United States, influencing approximately 1 to 6 people in the United States. People impacted with high iron levels might have no symptoms or signs (and have normal durability), or they can have severe symptoms and signs of iron overload that consist of sexual dysfunction, cardiac arrest, joint pains, cirrhosis of the liver, diabetes, fatigue, and darkening of skin.

Causes of high iron levels in Females

The typical iron material of the body is three to 4 grams. The overall quantity of iron in the body is carefully controlled. The body loses one mg of iron daily from sweat and cells that are shed from the skin and the inner lining of the intestinal tracts. Women also lose one mg of iron daily generally from menstruation. In regular adults the intestinal tracts absorb one mg of iron daily from food to change the lost iron, and therefore, there is no excess build-up of iron in the body. When iron losses are higher, more iron is absorbed from food.

In people with high iron levels, the everyday absorption of iron from the intestines is higher than the amount had to change losses. Since the typical body can not enhance iron excretion, the taken in iron collects in the body. At this rate of iron build-up, a man with hemochromatosis can build up 20 gram of overall body iron by age 40 to 50. This excess iron deposits in the joints, liver, testicles, and heart, causing damage to these organs and signs and symptoms of hemochromatosis in females. Women with high iron levels accumulate iron at a slower rate than men due to the fact that they lose more iron than men due to iron loss from menstruation and breastfeeding. For that reason, they generally establish symptoms and signs of organ damage due to excess iron 10 years later than men.

How is genetic hemachromatosis acquired in females?

High iron levels is an autosomal recessive disorder, which means an individual has the possibility of developing iron overload only when a pair of unusual genes are acquired from both parents. (An autosomal recessive condition is various from autosomal dominant disorder in which individuals can develop disease by acquiring a single unusual gene from just one parent.).

The human body is composed of trillions of cells. Inside the inner core (nucleus) of each cell are chromosomes. Every human cell has two sets of 23 chromosomes (total of 46 chromosomes). Each set is acquired from one parent. Chromosomes contain DNA that carries genes that govern all physical functions including cell metabolic process, appearance, height, intelligence, hair and eye color, and other physical characteristics. Flaws in DNA (likewise called mutations) are passed from one generation to the next, and sometimes can trigger diseases.

There are mainly two anomalies associated with high iron levels; C282Y and H63D. The numbers 282 and 63 designate the area of the problems on the HFE gene located on chromosome number 6. A person who acquires two C282Y mutations (one from each parent) is called a C282Y homozygote, and has a considerable opportunity of establishing hemochromatosis. In reality, C282Y homozygotes represent the majority of cases of high iron levels. Patients who inherit one C282Y mutation from one parent and another H63D mutation from another parent are called substance heterozygotes, accounting for a small number of the cases of high iron levels.

What are the symptoms and signs of high iron levels?

People with early iron overload have no symptoms and are uninformed of their condition. The disease may then be suspected when elevated iron blood levels are noted by regular blood testing.

  • In men, symptoms might not appear until 30-50 years of age. Iron deposits in the skin cause darkening of the skin. Because females lose iron through menstrual blood loss, nonmenstruating women establish symptoms 15 to 20 years later.
  • Iron deposits in the pituitary gland and testicles trigger shrinking of the testicles and impotence.
  • Iron deposits in the pancreas cause a decline in insulin production resulting in diabetes.
  • Iron deposits in the heart muscle can trigger cardiomyopathy and lead to heart failure in addition to unusual heart rhythms.
  • Iron build-up in the liver causes scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) and an enhanced danger of establishing liver cancer.

How is high iron levels in females treated?

The most effective treatment for high iron levels is to reduce iron in the body by phlebotomy (withdrawal of blood from the arm veins). One unit of blood, which includes 250 mg of iron, usually is withdrawn every one to two weeks. Serum ferritin and transferrin saturation are checked every 2 to 3 months. When ferritin levels are below 50 ng/ml and transferrin saturations are below 50 %, the frequency of phlebotomies are minimized to every 2 to 3 months. When hemochromatosis is diagnosed early and is dealt with successfully, damage to the liver, heart, testicles, pancreas and joints can be prevented entirely, and patients preserve typical health. In patients with recognized cirrhosis, efficient treatment can improve the function of the heart, skin color, and diabetes. However, cirrhosis is permanent and the risk of establishing liver cancer continues to be.

The benefits of restorative phlebotomy in high iron levels are as follows:

  • It prevents the development of liver cirrhosis and liver cancer if the disease is found and dealt with early.
  • It improves liver function partially in patients who have currently established innovative cirrhosis.
  • It improves and/or entirely deals with symptoms of weak point, liver pain, joint pain, and fatigue.
  • It improves function of the heart in patients with moderate and early heart disease.

References

The Author

Reyus Mammadli

Healthy lifestyle advisor. Bachelor Degree of Medical Equipment and Electronics.
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