Iron Overload: why It is a medical emergency

I am prone to having heavy monthlies, so would take iron supplements daily. Couple of months back, I noticed I was feeling a bit tired and slow and attributed it to stress of school and clinical. and of cause ignorantly continued popping those daily iron pills.

Well, I had pre-surgery blood work and it showed my iron levels was excessively high. Hmmmm! I definitely won’t be reaching for those iron supplements or chowing down on steaks anytime soon.

Just as too little iron can cause problems, too much iron in your body can lead to health concerns as well. It is one of the few minerals we cannot eliminate. 

Matter of fact, the only way to get rid of iron in your system is to bleed. This is why menstruating women have more of a tendency to iron deficiency anemia than men or post-menopausal women.

It is important to take iron supplement only if you need it because when the body has more iron than it needs, that iron is stored in places that it does not belong, such as the liver, heart, pancreas and the joints. 

The toxic effects of having too much iron in your system worsen over time and may result in death. Therefore, iron poisoning is always a medical emergency. 

Causes of iron overload:

  • When you take too many iron supplements
  • A child taking an adult dose
  • Having too many blood transfusions

Effects of too much iron:

  • It can irritate your stomach and digestive tract, sometimes causing bleeding. 
  • Within hours of overdose, your body’s cells can be poisoned
  • Within days, your liver can be damaged
  • Excessive iron can remain in your stomach even after vomiting
  • You can will have symptoms of iron overload include such as; fatigue, joint pain, abdominal pain and irregular heart rhythm

Important to note that iron supplementation is beneficial if you suffer from iron deficiency but may cause harm if you are not iron-deficient.

Unless you’re a menstruating woman or have had a significant blood loss, you should never take an iron supplement unless recommended by your health care provider after blood tests show that you have iron deficiency anemia.

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