Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hemochromatosis Awareness Month

KISBYTO likes to keep you informed on all the major events going on, and making you aware of common illnesses and diseases, however when this subject came up, it was almost passed on.  Even being a nurse, I didn't know much about it, so it couldn't be one of those common things, nor could it.  After doing a little research I discovered that one out of every 200 people suffer from this disease.  I was surprised!  Upon learning this, I thought I would also make all of you aware of this problem too.

Hemochromatosis is a disorder that results in too much iron being absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract.  It occurs when too much iron builds up in the body.  It occurs in two forms, primary and secondary.
Primary Hemochromatosis is usually caused by a specific genetic problem that causes too much iron to be absorbed. When people with this condition have too much iron in their diet, the extra iron is absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and builds up in the body tissues, particularly the liver. The result is liver swelling. Primary hemochromatosis is the most common genetic disorder in the United States, affecting an estimated 1 of every 200 to 300 Americans.

Secondary is cause by a disease such as thalassemia or side roblastic anemia, especially if the person has received a large number of blood transfusions. Occasionally, it may be seen with hemolytic anemia, chronic alcoholism, and other conditions.

Hemochromatosis affects more men than women. It is particularly common in Caucasians of western European descent. Symptoms are often seen in men between the ages of 30 and 50 and in women over 50, although some people may develop problems by age 20. You have a higher risk of hemochromatosis if someone else in your family has or had the condition.

  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Generalized darkening of skin color (often referred to as bronzing)
  • Joint pain
  • Lack of energy
  • Loss of body hair
  • Loss of sexual desire
  • Weight loss
  • Weakness

  • A physical examination shows liver and spleen swelling, and skin color changes.
  • Blood Tests
  • EKG
  • Liver function test

  • The goal of treatment is to remove excess iron from the body and treat any organ damage.  This is done by a procedure called a phlebotomy, during which a half liter of blood is removed each week until the iron level in the blood is normal.
  • Diet changes are also necessary.  Avoid foods that are high iron, and if liver damage has occurred, avoid all alcohol.
  • If Hemochromatosis has been diagnosed early, before any organ damage has occurred diseases such as liver disease, heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes can usually be prevented.  If someone in your family has been diagnosed with Hemochromatosis, begin getting testing to prevent any organ damage, and start treatment immediately.

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