Iron overload is a fatal metabolic disorder that causes iron to be stored in your blood abnormally. Excess accumulation of iron in your body can lead to organ damage. Mostly this disorder goes undiagnosed due to its slight and minor symptoms. Only a haemochromatosis test reveals the accurate iron levels in your blood to see if you have the right amount of iron.
Most patients with iron overload do not show any symptoms. The disorder usually occurs as a result of genetics. Read this guide to explore the risk factors and causes of haemochromatosis.
What is Haemochromatosis?
Haemochromatosis is a metabolic disease due to the over-accumulation of iron in your blood. It is also known as iron overload.
Iron overload mainly damages the liver because that’s where the iron is stored. Some other organs damaged by iron overload include the brain, pituitary glands, pancreas, and heart.
Types of Haemochromatosis and Their Causes
Two types of haemochromatosis are categorised based on the different risk factors and causes.
Primary haemochromatosis, also known as hereditary haemochromatosis, is caused due to genetic mutation. It runs in the family. If both sides of your mother and father have a medical history of iron overload, you are at higher risk of developing primary haemochromatosis.
If you have a family history of iron overload, going for a haemochromatosis test should be your priority. Early diagnosis can help control the disease before it damages any body organ.
Causes of Primary Haemochromatosis
The haemochromatosis gene, “HFE Gene,” regulates the amount of iron your body absorbs from food. Hereditary haemochromatosis happens when this gene is mutated through various chances. Inheriting this disorder from one side of the family sometimes skips a generation.
In easy words, the genetic mutation of the HFE gene is inherited from parent to child. In women, hereditary haemochromatosis doesn’t appear until menopause. While in men, it occurs during the mid-30s.
Secondary haemochromatosis happens by some other means of condition besides a genetic mutation.
A great example of secondary haemochromatosis is blood transfusions. After 100 days of a new blood transfusion, the red blood cell dies. However, the iron in those blood cells get recycled – So with every new blood transfusion, you are adding an excessive amount of iron into your body.
So lots of transfusions mean lots of iron in the blood.
Causes of Secondary Haemochromatosis
Depending on the organs that absorb the iron, different complications can rises. A lot of the iron gets deposited in the liver cells, so it makes sense that the liver sees quite a bit of damage over time from fibrosis due to free radical damage.
Some common risk factors and causes of secondary haemochromatosis are;
- Alcohol consumption
- Certain types of liver disease
- Family history of liver or pancreatic cancer
- Family history of heart disease or diabetes
- Frequent blood transfusions
Having any of these conditions puts you at risk of getting iron overload. One of the best preventative methods is to check the iron levels in your blood through a haemochromatosis test.
There is no way to stop the risk of developing haemochromatosis. However, knowing your health and genetic history can help you reduce its impact on your body.