How Does Hemochromatosis Affect the Liver?

Iron is an essential nutrient found in many foods. Healthy people usually absorb about 10% of the iron contained in the food they eat to meet the body’s needs. Hemochromatosis is a genetic disorder where too much iron builds up in your body.

Excess iron is stored in your organs, especially your liver, heart and pancreas. Too much iron can lead to life-threatening conditions like liver disease, heart problems, and diabetes.

This article will look at the symptoms of hemochromatosis and how it adversely affects your liver. 

What is Hemochromatosis?

Hemochromatosis is an inherited disease in which the body absorbs too much iron from the diet you consume. In everyday situations, the intestine absorbs the right amount of iron from the food you consume. When you have this disorder, your body absorbs too much iron and doesn’t have an outlet to get rid of it. So, the body stores the excess iron in your joints and organs like the liver, heart, and pancreas. If it’s not treated, hemochromatosis can make your organs stop working.

There are two types of this condition: primary and secondary. Primary is hereditary hemochromatosis, where you inherit the disease from your parents, and secondary hemochromatosis happens when you have other health conditions like anaemia.

What are the symptoms of Hemochromatosis?

Although haemochromatosis is inherited, the build-up of iron in the body happens slowly, and symptoms do not usually appear until a person ages 30 or 40 years old. In women, this is commonly closer to 50 years. For many, the lifetime build-up of iron is relatively small and does not cause clinical problems. When symptoms do appear, they may include the following:

  • tiredness, fatigue, or lack of energy to do daily activities,
  • a feeling of weakness in the limbs,
  • acute pain in the joints, especially knuckles,
  • loss of appetite,
  • sudden weight loss,
  • yellowing or bronzing of the skin, and
  • abdominal pain. 

Impact of Hemochromatosis on the Liver

The liver can be highly sensitive to the effects of iron, and many people with hemochromatosis will have liver damage. The untreated iron overload can cause cirrhosis or scarring of the liver. When scar tissue replaces healthy tissue in the liver, it stops functioning. Choosing the Best liver hospital in Chennai can prevent such complications 

If significant scarring of the liver occurs, the following symptoms are experienced by the affected individuals:

  • weight loss and fatigue,
  • very itchy skin,
  • tenderness or pain around the liver, and
  • yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice). 

Cirrhosis can eventually increase the risk of liver failure. Some people with liver failure need a transplant. Scarring of the liver can also increase the chances of developing liver cancer.

Lifestyle measures to manage Hemochromatosis

In case you are diagnosed with hemochromatosis, the following lifestyle measures can help you manage your health:

  • annual blood tests to monitor iron levels,
  • avoid taking multivitamins, vitamin C supplements, and iron supplements,
  • stop drinking alcohol since it can cause additional damage to the liver,
  • taking care to prevent infections, for example, taking regular vaccinations and following good hygiene practices,
  • keep a log of iron levels to monitor changes. 

Hemochromatosis is a disease that makes the body store too much iron. Although it can cause serious problems, it is treatable, especially when identified early. Talk to your doctor if you have symptoms of hemochromatosis or a family history of it. 

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