I have a high iron count in blood. What does that mean?

June 1, 2010

Iron is an essential nutrient found in many foods. In your body, iron becomes part of hemoglobin. Healthy people usually absorb about 10 percent of the iron contained in the food they eat to meet the normal dietary requirements. High iron levels in blood are a concern as it is a marker for various diseases. The body has no natural way to rid itself of the excess iron so it is stored in body tissues, specifically the liver, heart, and pancreas. When this happens, the iron can poison the organs and lead to organ failure. For example:

  • Liver - Can cause liver enlargement, cirrhosis, failure, or cancer of the liver.
  • Heart - Can cause irregular heart rate or rhythm (arrhythmia) and also heart failure.
  • Pancreas - can lead to diabetes mellitus.

High levels of iron in blood occur as the result of:

  • Multiple blood transfusions
  • Iron injections into muscle
  • Lead poisoning
  • Liver or kidney disease
  • Hereditary haemochromatosis (genetic disorder)
  • Chronic hemolytic anemia
  • Dietary iron excess.

The symptoms of high iron levels in the blood are:

  • Fatigue, weakness
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Hair loss
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Palpitations (a fluttering sensation in the chest).

You must get an annual blood test done in order to keep check on the iron levels in the blood. The tests which are performed to check the levels of iron in the blood are a fasting serum iron and total iron binding capacity (TIBC). Serum ferritin measures the amount of iron stored in the body. Serum iron levels are often evaluated in conjunction with other iron tests. The normal range of TIBC is 12% to 45% and that of serum ferritin is 5% to 150%.

High iron count in the blood means that you are eating a larger amount of red meat or are taking supplements which have a high level of iron. Excess iron lowers immunity and triggers various diseases such as AIDs, cancer, and hepatitis.

If you are diagnosed with high iron levels, you are prescribed certain medications by your physician that bind to the iron and help it flow through your urine. You may also have to get your blood drawn twice a month until the levels decrease. Sometimes a blood transfusion is the only treatment left. You must also decrease the amount of iron rich foods, and avoid multivitamins that have iron. You must avoid vitamin C as it increases the amount of iron that the body absorbs. You must also limit alcohol intake as excess alcohol increases the risk for liver disease and can make liver disease worse.

Submitted by M T on June 1, 2010 at 08:51

Read more questions in Blood Tests