So, I've got a new Dx. and this could well turn out to be the cause of my gut trouble and my arthritis, as well as a few other problems I've had along the way. This was all thanks to a "Mystrey Diagnosis" show on the Discovery Health Channel.
My younger sister was beginning to exhibit some of the symptoms that I've had for years and she started to look into what was causing them. One night, she caught the show on Hemachromatosis (HHC) and thought that this might explain her problems. She went out on a limb and got genetic testing done which showed that she had inherited 2 copies of a mutated gene. This mutation allows for excess iron to be absorbed through the intestine, above and beyond what the body needs. Once you have all this iron in your blood, your body has to do something with it. Unfortunately, you don't excrete metals through the liver or kidneys like you do other vitamins and minerals. This means that your body has to "store" the iron somewhere. Where the iron gets stored depends on which genetic mutation you have. In the worst case, it all gets loaded into your liver and this can result in cirrohsis or even liver cancer, but the iron can get stored almost anywhere. The brain, heart, lungs, liver, pancreas, thyroid and joints are all at risk with the mutation that my sister has.
This week, I got back my test results. I too have 2 copies of the mutated gene and so does my mother. My iron levels are very high and I'm now waiting to see a Hematologist. The good news is that the treatment is just to donate blood. That's all I have to do to get this under control, but I have to wait 3.5 weeks to see the Hem before I can do that. If I donate now, I might get better and then I'd be left sitting there having a Doc who can't see how sick I am. UUGGHH
From what I've read, it is possible for there to be damage to the gut from Hemachromatosis (HHC) that is very similar to the damage found in mild CD. Since my body is getting too much iron, the villi have become shortened, so that they absorb less. I'm still trying to determine if the HHC can cause the type of bowel inflammation that I had. 30cms of TI is a lot of bowel to be inflammed, but the GIs are all saying that they don't believe I have CD now.
It's also possible the HHC is the cause of my Spondylitis. Iron depositis in my joints could cause the type of inflammatory arthritis that I have. To stretch it, you might say that with the iron in the tissue, my immune system isn't recognizing that it's attacking my own body. It believes that iron is a foreign substance. Following this train of thought would explain my high thyroid antibodies too. It could even explain my migraines. UUUGGHH what a mess.
Anyway, I am just learning about all this and there will be more to come. I wanted to put this out here though because HHC is actually much more coomon than one would believe. However, it's not something that Docs look for unless or until someone becaomes very sick or they get screened after a family member has been Dx with it.
Screenings of the general population show that 1 in 250 Americans actually have the genetic mutations to cause HHC. However, in the Irish-American population, the rate of occurence is 1 in 80. Anyone want to take a guess about my ancestry? LOL
Screening for HHC does not need to included genetic studies. There are 4 simple blood tests which can evaluate someone's iron levels and determine if they are at risk for disease. These are total iron, TIBC, Transferrin and Transferrin saturation. These can be run as part of any regular blood test, but it's not common for Docs to actually order them.
The thing that really eats me up is that my levels came back very high 11 years ago. The GI I was seeing then actually talked to me about the possibilty of chelation to remove the iron. A repeat test was done several weeks later and the levels dropped, so he dropped the issue and nobody ever followed up on it.
If iron storage is my real problem, it might be possible that through blood donation, I could rid myself of many of my symptoms. This idea thrills me to no end, however, I also relaize that getting rid of the iron won't fix the damage that has already been done.
So, I'd suggest that anyone who is of Irish, or Northern European descent talk to their Docs about checking their iron levels. This can sneak up on you slowly enough to cause lots of problems before you get sick enough for them to find it.
Keah a.k.a. Wormy
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