Iron Overload

It’s on the ads saying iron is good for growth. But why in her condition, she needs to removes it from the body instead?

A little girl lying comfortably on the bed, small built figure to compare to her age. She visits the daycare every month to transfuse in about 2 pints of B+ blood. It was her first bag of 200ml depleted leukocytes of red cells today. Usually, I’ll give some time to a patient to ask any questions after finishing my clerking. She starts asking me a question as I examine her abdomen, “Isn’t iron good for your body?”. 

Yeah, I’ve seen the similar ads as I grown up watching television. It is also known that most malnutrition cause of anemia (less red cells) in kids are due to iron deficiency. So I started telling her that too much is not good as too little. In her condition, her body does not make good quality of red cells, so it does not carry enough oxygen to tissues. Now, she’s getting the red cells from outside together with irons. Adding loads of iron inside bodies can cause overload and problem that we’re pooping out iron in very minimum and constant amount. Over time iron will harm the body as they deposited to organs and starts failing them.

It’s the blood content she’s taking already rich in with iron that she does not require iron supply from dietary. Iron absorb and release during excretion does not maintain the normal iron level. The body has limited mechanisms for excreting excess iron, so the maths isn’t working right if you’re on regular transfusion.

What happened if it’s too much iron in a transfused patient?

Iron overload progressively damages the liver, heart, and endocrine system (the organ that regulates hormone) if the treatment to remove iron also known as chelating therapy is not introduced.

Too much of iron may present with:

1.hepatomegaly – liver become bigger in size

2. liver dysfunction – cannot function well

3. heart failure – heart starts failing

4. skin pigmentation – darken skin

5. hypogonadism – secondary sexual organ underdeveloped

6. diabetes mellitus

7. arthropathy – having disease of the joints

As the Chinese saying goes too much is as bad as too little.




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