It’s Hemochromatosis Screening Awareness Month, and hemochromatosis is an inherited disorder where your body accumulates too much iron.
Patients usually don’t show serious signs until they’re over 40 years old, so it’s important to get screened in routine blood tests.
Hemochromatosis is especially common in those from European ancestry, affecting approximately 1 in 400 of them. Talk to your doctor about when you should be screened.
If you suffer from hemochromatosis, your body absorbs too much iron from your diet, as much as 4x too much, and since your body only has a few ways to get rid of iron, it accumulates over time in your liver, bones, joints, pancreas, and skin.
The extra iron in your system can cause organ damage, and iron deposits can darken your skin. It can also increase your risk of diabetes, heart attack, arthritis, and some cancers.
The wrong level of iron in the brain has been tied to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis.
Symptoms of hemochromatosis include chronic fatigue, joint pain, especially in your knuckles, memory fog, an irregular heartbeat, and abdominal pain.
Getting iron levels down with therapeutic blood removal, or phlebotomy, is the most common treatment. Regular blood donations and a hemochromatosis-friendly diet can help you lower iron levels.