Hemochromatosis, sometimes referred to as iron overload, is a problem marked by the excessive build-up of iron in the body. The food that we eat contains various nutrients which are important for our body. The intestines absorb the right amount of these nutrients, as required by you, and the remaining are passed out along with the stools. In case of patients suffering from hemochromatosis, the intestines absorb too much iron, resulting in the elevated levels of the same in the blood. This excess iron starts to accumulate in the liver, pancreas and other organs and damage these. Best doctors in Mumbai suggest that if the problem is not treated promptly, it can even lead to organ failure.
How hemochromatosis affects the liver?
The liver is the largest gland in the human body, responsible for the filtration of toxins from the blood, which means that all the blood in the body passes through the liver. In the case of patients suffering from hemochromatosis, the excessive iron present in the blood gets deposited in the liver and damages the liver tissues. Eventually,the liver becomes dysfunctional and the patient requires a liver transplant. So, if you are wondering if hemochromatosis can call for the need of a liver transplant, the answer is YES.
Types of hemochromatosis:
Doctors specialising in Hepato pancreatic biliary surgery broadly classify the problem into two types:
- Primary hemochromatosis- The problem is hereditarywhich means that it can be passed along with genes.
- Secondary hemochromatosis- The problem is not hereditary but a result of some underlying medical condition such as anaemia, hepatic diseases or frequent blood transfusions.
What are the symptoms you need to look out for?
Any disease is recognized by its symptoms, but you will be surprised to know that nearly half of the people suffering from hemochromatosis do not experience any symptoms. As far as men are concerned, the symptoms usually become evident when they are in the age group of 30 to 50 years, however, in case of women the symptoms mostly show up after they hit menopause. Here are a few symptoms, as listed by the HPB surgery doctors in Mumbai,whichmay suggest that you are suffering from hemochromatosis:
- Joint pain and discomfort
- Painful knuckles
- Unintentional weight loss
- Greyish skin tone
- Decreased sex drive
- Hair fall
- Alleviated memory retention.
How is the problem diagnosed?
The symptoms of hemochromatosis are quite common and might be mistaken for some other disease. To rule out this problem, your doctor may carry out a detailed medical examination for precise evaluation and assessment.
The doctor will first go through your medical history and examine your body physically. This is followed by various blood tests (like transferrin saturation and serum ferritin), liver biopsy and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan.
Are there any treatments available?
The problem cannot be treated but it can be managed effectively by proper guidance. In the case of primary hemochromatosis, the problem is managed by removing blood from the patient’s body on a regular basis. This helps to maintain normal iron levels in the body. The procedure can take up to a year or even more, after which the procedure is performed less often. Doctors may even recommend dietary modifications to keep the problem at bay.
Medical intervention is a must as the problem is progressive and may damage your liver, giving rise to the need for a liver transplant.
Liver transplant in India is offered at all the leading hospitals and involves the replacement of a diseased or dysfunctional liver with a healthy portion taken from a living or deceased donor.
Dr. Chetan Kalal (Program Director - Hepatology & Transplant Medicine, Centre for Liver, Pancreas & Intestine Transplantation)
Dr. Chetan Kalal is Program Director - Hepatology & Transplant Medicine, Centre for Liver, Pancreas & Intestine Transplantation, Nanavati Max Super Speciality Hospital. Being India's first DM, Hepatology and Transplant Medicine, Dr Kalal is considered one of country's foremost experts in management of liver, pancreas and intestine.