Over 500,000 men and women took part in a health study in the United Kingdom. That field was narrowed down to 2,900 participants between the ages of 40 and 70. Of those, they found that 22 percent of the men and 10 percent of the women had a genetic condition called hemochromatosis.
These percentages were much higher than expected. It’s led to concerns that hemochromatosis is happening more in people of European descent than originally believed.
What is Hemochromatosis?
Hemochromatosis is a blood disease that is genetic. It’s present in 1 million men and women in the U.S. Upwards of 16 million are believed to have some level of hemochromatosis and not know it.
The body works hard to limit the amount of iron taken from the foods that are eaten each day. Typically, around 10 percent of the iron is absorbed. Hemochromatosis leads to issues processing the iron.
Around four times more of the iron that’s eaten is absorbed and leads to an overdose of iron that affects several organs or parts of the body. Typically, hemochromatosis negatively affects several joints, the heart, the liver, and the pituitary glands.
This excess iron can lead to cirrhosis, irregular heart rhythms, dementia-like symptoms, depression, and certain cancers. The disease is more prevalent in Caucasians of European descent.
Symptoms of Hemochromatosis
People with hemochromatosis have a variety of symptoms. The first noticeable one is pain in the joints of the middle and index fingers. The sensation of skipped or fluttering heartbeats, loss of energy, pain in the abdomen, and brain fogs are others.
How is Hemochromatosis Treated?
If it is found, bloodletting is the only effective treatment. Enough blood is removed to get iron levels back to the normal range. Per the Iron Disorders Institute, removing approximately one unit of blood reduces iron levels by 30ng/mL. Once levels are normal, maintenance requires blood removal every three months on average.
Your parent would need someone to drive them to appointments and spend time with them after the blood is removed. Home care services providers are helpful on treatment days.
Why is Hemochromatosis so Concerning?
The study found a few other patterns. People with hemochromatosis had higher rates of arthritis, diabetes, and liver disease. Rheumatoid arthritis was one of the two common forms of arthritis found in people with hemochromatosis.
Seniors with hemochromatosis often require some assistance while aging at home. They need help with appointments, transportation, and assistance with meals if arthritis is present.
If your mom or dad is struggling to cook healthy meals, remember to take medications each day, or can’t drive safely, home care services ease worries. Rather than missing days of work to meet your parents’ needs, caregivers can step in and help out. Call our home care services agency to discuss these and other ways caregivers help seniors age at home.