MSD Manual

Please confirm that you are not located inside the Russian Federation

honeypot link

Overview of Iron Overload

By

James Peter Adam Hamilton

, MD, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Last full review/revision Sep 2020| Content last modified Sep 2020
CLICK HERE FOR THE PROFESSONAL VERSION

Iron Iron Deficiency Iron deficiency is a common cause of anemia, a condition in which the number of red blood cells is low. Iron deficiency usually results from loss of blood in adults (including bleeding from... read more is essential for life, so the body usually tightly controls iron absorption from food and recycles the iron from red blood cells. People lose small amounts of iron every day, and even a healthy diet contains only a small amount of iron. Thus, people rarely have too much iron in their body. Causes of excess iron in the body (iron overload) include the following:

When the body gradually takes in more iron than it needs, the excess iron is deposited in tissues throughout the body. Symptoms and complications can occur if iron accumulates in the endocrine organs (especially the pancreas, gonads, and pituitary gland), liver, and heart.

Taking in a large amount of iron all at once, such as in an overdose of iron pills, can be very dangerous. Iron poisoning Iron Poisoning Symptoms develop in stages and begin with vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Liver failure can develop days later. The diagnosis is based on the person’s history, symptoms, and the amount... read more damages the digestive tract, liver, heart and brain, and can be fatal.

African iron overload occurs most often in sub-Saharan Africa among people who consume an iron-rich fermented drink. A genetic component is thought to contribute to the development of African iron overload, but no gene has yet been identified.

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: CLICK HERE FOR THE PROFESSONAL VERSION
CLICK HERE FOR THE PROFESSONAL VERSION
Others also read
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Test your knowledge
Anemia of Chronic Disease
Anemia is often caused by chronic disease, defined as any disease lasting 3 or more months. Autoimmune disorders, in which the body attacks its own tissues, are a common cause of this type of anemia. Which of the following autoimmune disorders most often causes anemia?
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID

Also of Interest

Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
TOP