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Hemachromatosis

Functions of the liver

The liver is the main warehouse for nutrients absorbed from the small intestine. Its job is to store, package and change these nutrients according to the needs of the body and then supply them to the blood stream for delivery to the various organs. The liver is a very large organ located in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen protected by the rib cage. It also produces bile that is stored in the gallbladder.

Definition

Hemochromatosis, excessive amounts of iron are absorbed from the intestine and stored in the liver. If iron overload is not prevented, the iron can be toxic to the liver, resulting in cirrhosis.

Cause

Primary Hemochromatosis, also called hereditary Hemochromatosis, is an inherited disease. Secondary Hemochromatosis is caused by anemia, alcoholism, and other disorders

Symptoms

Joint pain is the most common complaint of people with Hemochromatosis. Other common symptoms include fatigue, lack of energy, abdominal pain, loss of sex drive, and heart problems. However, many people have no symptoms when they are diagnosed.

Diagnosis

A complete medical history, physical examination, and routine blood tests help rule out other conditions that could be causing the symptoms. This information often provides helpful clues, such as a family history of arthritis or unexplained liver disease. Blood tests and possibly a live biopsy are used to make diagnosis.

Treatment

Treatment is simple, inexpensive, and safe. The first step is to rid the body of excess iron. This process is called phlebotomy, which means removing blood the same way it is drawn from donors at blood banks. Blood testing is done during treatment to monitor iron levels.

Summary

Hemochromatosis is a condition which the body abnormally processes and collects iron. This excess iron is deposited in the liver where if severe and left untreated can cause liver damage.

Organizations

  1. American Gastroenterological Association - www.gastro.com
  2. American College of Gastroenterology - www.acg.gi.org
  3. American Liver Foundation - www.liverfoundation.org

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