What Causes High Iron Levels?


Quick Answer

Liver disease, anemia, thalassemia and blood transfusions are all potential causes of high iron levels. An inherited disease called primary hemochromatosis also causes too much iron to build up in the blood, according to MedlinePlus.

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Full Answer

The human body uses iron to synthesize DNA, store and transport oxygen, prevent accumulation of hydrogen peroxide in cells and produce cellular energy. Infants and children need approximately 40 milligrams of iron per day, while adolescents and adults need 45 milligrams per day, reports the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.

Although iron is necessary for survival, too much of it causes adverse effects. Iron overload causes joint pain, fatigue, abdominal pain, irregular heart rhythms and hair loss. Some people with iron overload also develop osteoporosis, hypothyroidism, adrenal function problems and Type 2 diabetes, states the Iron Disorders Institute.

Available treatments for iron overload include dietary changes, iron chelation therapy and therapeutic phlebotomy. Limiting vitamin C consumption, avoiding uncooked shellfish and fish, limiting alcohol intake and avoiding iron supplements helps reduce the amount of iron in the blood and prevent complications. Iron chelation therapy involves removing excess iron from the blood with oral or injectable medication. Therapeutic phlebotomy is similar to the process of giving blood. A technician inserts a needle in the arm and collects the blood in a bag or tube. This removes excess iron from the body, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

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