Iron Deficiency Anemia and Hemochromatosis
There are several different medical conditions that result from an imbalance of iron the in body, including iron deficiency anemia and hemochromatosis.
Although these two conditions are on opposite ends of the iron spectrum, some of their symptoms can surprisingly be very similar.
Here are some distinguishing characteristics about iron deficiency anemia and hemochromatosis and why diagnosing the correct disorder is crucial to one’s health and wellbeing.
The Basics of Iron Deficiency Anemia
Iron deficiencies result when the body has too little iron, and they are the most common cause of anemia worldwide. It is common in newborns and infants experiencing rapid growth, women who have heavy periods or are pregnant, and people who have digestive tract diseases that limit the body’s absorption of iron.
Symptoms of iron deficiency anemia include weakness, dizziness, fatigue, headaches, cold intolerance, and shortness of breath. For suspected iron deficiencies serum ferritin is an important test because it distinguishes between iron deficiency anemia and anemia caused by a chronic disease. Iron supplements like Fergon are commonly recommended for iron deficiencies.
The Basics of Hemochromatosis
On the other end of the spectrum, hemochromatosis is a condition that results when excessive amounts of iron occur in the body. Hemochromatosis is a common metabolic disorder that is genetic and affects over 1 million people in the U.S. With this condition, the body loads too much iron, which can impact the organs and joints, and even be fatal in severe cases.
People who have hemochromatosis often describe symptoms of low energy, abdominal pain, a cloudy memory, and irregular heartbeat. But over time if left untreated, other more serious symptoms typically occur as well, including diabetes, impotence, and failure of the heart and liver.
Similarities and Differences of IDA and Hemochromatosis
Similar symptoms that exist in both of these conditions include fatigue, low energy, and a lack of mental clarity. However, the differences between these conditions far outweigh the similarities, and the causes and treatments are very different for these disorders.
Since hemochromatosis is heredity, the condition is typically present at birth. However, the symptoms often only appear between the ages of 50 and 60 in men and after 60 in women. This is unlike iron deficiency anemia, which more frequently affects women under 60 who are losing iron with menstruation.
Risks of Misdiagnosis and Self-Diagnosis
Since these two conditions have some similar side effects, it is possible to be misdiagnosed or self-diagnose oneself incorrectly. But if hemochromatosis is left untreated, it can lead to many other conditions including diabetes mellitus, arthritis, gall bladder disease, depression, cirrhosis of the liver, and infertility.
Serum ferritin, total iron binding capacity, and serum iron tests help doctors diagnose hemochromatosis, and anyone with a family history of the disease is advised to get genetic testing. Liver function tests, testing for gene mutations, and a MRI may also be recommended to confirm the diagnosis. In conclusion, both iron deficiency anemia and hemochromatosis are serious conditions that require the expertise of a trusted medical professional to begin treating the cause of the symptoms before irreversible damage occurs.
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