According to the Iron Disorders Institute, iron is an essential element for life to exist. It is required for the growth of all living things. Iron is the building block of hemoglobin which transports oxygen and removes carbon dioxide throughout the body. Like hemoglobin, myoglobin is the iron storage protein required for muscle growth and function. The oxygen to carbon dioxide exchange permits plant to grow and animals to live. Essentially, iron enables the cycle of life.
Iron Disorders are caused by iron-out-of-balance™. If a person does not have enough iron, they will be iron deficient. If a person has too much iron they will have iron overload or even Hereditary Hemochromatosis (HHC). Either too much or too little iron can contribute to many serious health concerns, and even early death. A person can be iron deficient with or without anemia, or can be anemic and have an iron overload condition or HHC at the same time.
Although iron deficiency presents a serious worldwide health problem, iron overload is a far more serious health concern in the U.S. Iron Disorders Institute estimates that as many as 100 million Americans have abnormal iron levels that if not corrected, increases their risk for diseases such as cancer, diabetes, atherosclerosis, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, heart failure, and cirrhosis, among others. Included among those at risk, are more than ten million Americans with a combination of the two genetic variants directly associated with HHC, which is an inherited iron overload condition commonly shown to cause cirrhosis, heart failure, diabetes, impotence, early menopause, osteoarthritis and an increased incidence of several cancers.
The additional pages contain descriptions of many of the conditions related to iron disorders and will be updated with further information on a continuing basis.
Written by Theresa B. Tannich, Special Projects, Gerald Koenig and Cheryl Garrison of the Iron Disorders Institute, updated March 7, 2012.
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