Excess of anything is not good for our body and this fact is very much true for iron as well. Although dietary iron present in red blood cells plays a crucial role in transportation of oxygen to different organs of the body, too much presence can trigger many health problems.
High iron levels are often diagnosed in alcoholics. Alcohol encourages absorption of iron and hence consuming it in excess can eventually cause iron overload. Apart from alcoholism, other factor that can influence iron levels, is diet. If your day-to-day meals are providing iron in excess amounts, it is obvious that blood iron will sooner or later rise above normal levels.
Too much iron in blood pushes us towards numerous health issues that vary from emotional disorders like depression to more serious ones related to the heart. Pregnancy is next to impossible in women diagnosed with high iron levels. It is discussed below:
Fatigue: Excess tiredness is one of the most high iron symptoms in women and men. The person may experience depleting energy levels and feel tired all the time, in spite of taking rest. 'Feeling terribly tired' is the most common complaint among people with high iron levels in blood.
Abdominal Discomfort: Exceedingly high levels of iron can also cause abdominal pain. Persistent mild to moderate discomfort has been associated with iron overload. This is an indication that the organs situated in the abdominal area have been affected with high iron levels.
Joint Pain: Too much iron in blood can hurt the joint seriously and its symptoms may manifest in the form of joint pain. With iron levels remaining high for quite some time, it can trigger joint related disorders like osteoarthritis and osteoporosis.
Liver Problems: As the iron levels breach the limit of tolerance, surplus iron gets deposited in various organs including the liver. In case, the treatment is delayed, damage to the liver is inevitable. The person may be diagnosed with liver cirrhosis or enlarged liver.
Pancreas Problems: With no treatment, excess iron starts getting deposited in the pancreas, an organ that releases digestive juices and insulin to control blood sugar. Thus, iron buildup can trigger malfunctioning of the pancreas and cause indigestion. Any issues with the pancreas initially manifest in the form of upper abdominal pain, nausea, unexplained weight loss and vomiting.
Heart Diseases: Other than the liver, excess iron can also get deposited in the heart. The heart cannot tolerate this burden of too much iron. Disturbances in heart function such as abnormal heart beats (slow or fast heartbeat) or congestive heart failure (a condition in which the heart is ineffective to pump adequate blood to meet the demands of your rate). If left untreated, high iron levels in blood can block the arteries which may lead to a heart attack.
Changes in Skin Color: Skin discoloration can also be the result of iron build up in blood. People with high iron levels gradually lose the natural color of their skin. Thus, with excessive build up of iron, the skin may appear bronze or gray.
Diabetes: Too much iron in blood for prolonged period can make the body resistant to insulin, which may lead to diabetes (high blood sugar levels). Insulin is a hormone whose main job is to regulate blood sugar levels. However with excess iron, insulin might not be able to control production of glucose (a type of sugar). In other words, the body becomes insensitive to actions of insulin, eventually causing diabetes.
Lowered Sex Drive: Sex is likely to take a backseat in people with high iron levels in blood. Thus, signs of impotency could mean too much iron build up in the body. Excessive iron can make a person look disinterested in having sex.
Hair Loss: Although, dietary iron plays a crucial role in maintaining normal hair growth, surplus iron can trigger hair loss. So, if low iron levels cause hair loss, this outcome also holds true for high iron levels.
Thyroid Problems: Excess accumulation of iron in the body can interfere with the normal functioning of the thyroid gland. It is found that with too much iron, thyroid gland located in the neck is unable to produce hormones in adequate amounts.
Irregular Periods: Abnormally high iron levels can have a negative impact on the menstrual cycle. A period usually lasts anywhere between 21 and 34 days and occurs a maximum of 4 times in a year. However, with iron soaring beyond normal range, the duration as well as occurrence of periods becomes irregular. In other words, menstruation periods occur unexpectedly when iron blood is abnormally high.
High iron symptoms are often diagnosed in patients suffering from hemochromatosis, a condition in which the body develops an unusual ability to absorb large amounts of iron from the food consumed. Removing a fixed amount of blood periodically (usually after every 2 weeks) is often the first line of treatment for hemochromatosis patients. Usually, the arms is the site of withdrawing blood intravenously. In most cases, a pint of blood that contains 250 mg of iron is withdrawn in every blood removal session. Other options include taking medications that help to increase removal of iron through urine.
Decreasing intake of foods high in iron is also very important in order to reduce symptoms of iron overload. Vitamin C is known to encourage iron absorption and hence taking it in supplemental form has to be avoided. Orange juice that is high in vitamin C should also not be taken during meals.