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Iron contributes to the leading causes of vision loss

Iron contributes to the leading causes of vision loss

Iron is a necessary mineral for many of the body’s functions, including vision. But too much iron – or problems with utilizing, storing, or transporting iron properly – can lead to vision loss in the form of conditions such as age-related macular degeneration and hyperferritinemia syndrome, according to recent research findings.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is regarded as the leading cause of vision loss for people over the age of 50. The macula, a small portion of the retina which is responsible for sharp and detailed vision, deteriorates over time when the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) surrounding the macula oxidizes – triggering an inflammatory response.

While smoking, poor diet, and lack of exercise typically contribute to oxidation of the retina, research has found that iron may also increase a person’s risk of AMD, according to Dr. Joshua Dunaief, professor of ophthalmology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. 

“Iron accumulates in the body with age because we continue to absorb it from our diets, but we excrete very little,” Dunaief said. “Iron may accumulate to even higher levels in diseased retinas because low oxygen levels (hypoxia) or inflammation can cause cells to retain iron.”

Normally the RPE has ways to prevent iron from entering the retina when iron levels are high, but if iron export from cells is unregulated, iron may accumulate in the eye and degrade the macula. Dunaief’s research has shown that the oral iron chelator deferiprone may be a possible treatment for AMD if iron accumulation was one of the causes for its development. Iron chelation therapy is the removal of excess iron from the body with special drugs.

“Deferiprone can protect the retinas of mice by entering the retina and removing iron from it,” said Dunaief, whose lab is currently testing additional drugs to prevent iron accumulation in the eye.

Oftentimes the storage protein for iron, ferritin, can reach the eye instead of the mineral itself. The result is hereditary hyperferritinemia cataract syndrome (HHCS), an inherited condition of early-onset cataracts which could be dangerously confused with hemochromatosis (iron overload) unless a person is diagnosed using the full iron panel:

  • Hemoglobin: the iron-containing protein in the blood that carries iron and oxygen to cells; this test measures how well the body is using iron
  • Transferrin-iron saturation percentage (TS%): a measure of iron carried by the protein transferrin in the serum; represented by fasting serum iron divided by total iron binding capacity (TIBC), multiplied by 100%
  • Serum ferritin: indicates the amount of iron stored in the body, via the protein ferritin

People with HHCS typically have normal TIBC and TS% test results but elevated serum ferritin levels (Hyperferritinemia means high ferritin in the blood). A liver biopsy will show that the patient does not have iron overload. An ophthalmologist confirms diagnosis of HHCS.

But how can the body’s storage sites for iron be full without iron overflowing into other organs? The answer is that a genetic mutation has turned off the body’s ability to make ferritin in response to changing iron levels. This means that ferritin is constantly being made no matter whether iron levels are high or low. In HHCS, components of ferritin accumulate in the eye lens and crystalize – disrupting the light transmission which enables a person to see.

If an HHCS patient is falsely diagnosed with hemochromatosis, phlebotomies used to remove excess iron from the body could make the person become iron deficient. Right now, the only known treatment for HHCS is cataract surgery.

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2. Lynn wrote:
I was dx with HHCS and have had bad health throughout my life.

I thought it was Lyme disease(which I have), but now I think in someway the HHCS is causes the body pain, eye pressure and painful hands, abdominal problems and major weakness

I just had IV oxygen therapy and while they were taking out the blood my pain got better.
Blood work
WBC 3.1L
Hemoglobin 11.6L
absolute neutrophils 1494 L
Creatine, serum 0.50 L
Bun/Creatine ratio 26 H
Iron total 80
Iron binding Capacity 404
% saturation 20
Ferritin 1194 H

I really don't know what to do, the doctors are no help.

Any information would be greatly appreciated.

Sat, July 15, 2017 @ 2:41 PM

3. Sharon wrote:
I have Macular Degdneration and I am 63 years old.
I have been experiencing hair loss so I recently had blood work for iron and ferritin.
My two low levels are.....Iron 36, and satuation at 9 . Also my ferritin level is 37.

The recommendation was to take ferritin with vit c twice daily but I am so fearful of my eyes.

Any suggestions?

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I visited Dr In March during my annual check up. At that time I had no other problem other than low energy and routine thyroid check up, physician checked why I have energy issue and discovered B12 , D and Ferritin very low. He advised I take multivitamin for B12 (1000IU) and D(5000IU) but for Ferritin he refereed me to go to a hematologist Dr . I started taking OTC naturemade vitamins that I purchased from BJs. Already started feeling better by the time I went and saw Hematologist but I thought I should consult with him just so my ferrititn levels get better.
When I saw the doctor in April first week, My B12 and D vitamins already started and I was feeling better without any issues. My hemoglobin was 11.7 and ferritin was 7; Hematologist suggested I get infused with Iron injectefer 750mg through IV. I went by his suggestion on Apr 13 and discovered I have sudden onset of multiple floaters in my eyesight 4/5 days later. My entire face was darkened and went 2 shades darker. I tried bringing this to Doctor's notice and I was suggested by hematologist that they never heard of this and I should go check blood again and meet ophthalmologist. I had a follow up blood work check up on May 4 and my iron ferritin levels we 266(maximum limit for a female is 115). I am thinking this is something that caused my eyes floaters. My hemoglobin is still 11.7. I was told by other doctor friends that with this kind of hemoglobin the doctor should have prescribed just over the countr medicines of iron and pushed you to eat prunes and dates and raisins and stuff. My body is inflamated, I had sever body pain specially my upper back that I suffered for 3 months. Recently I had to join Massage envy to get the massage done so the pain gets better. If I knew this side effect I would have chosen natural path to increase ferritin.
I went on 5/11 for eye check up again Dr. . He diagnosed that there are multiple floaters and my eyesight went 20/25 from 20/20. He said there is nothing that can be done and that he doesn't think it is due to iron infusion but he doesn't know that for sure and said he doesn't specialize in this and didn't know any reason why this would happen, He said there is nothing that he can do and this is pretty much permanent.
I can not focus and look at things with clear mind. My eyes hurt physically at day end and its dry every morning. I see many people complaining about floaters but I am the one who will have to live with this forever. I am sure there are people who publish studies that proves that iron can cause floaters and if I get details I will submit it to you.

I am just sad that doctors didn't try medicinal/natural route first and infused me with this raw iron that left me with these side effects. Even after multiple follow ups with Dr Lee's office, doctor himself and nurse and asked them to check and report this side effect to medicine injectefer company, noone got back to me and all they are trying to do is not take blame or fall in legal problem. Truth is, there is not enough research on it and thats why no opthalmologist or hematologist can put a finger on it. but i kno that I got these problems after this and my eyesight, body, skin all got affected with iron overdose.
My hemoglobin was 11 when they gave me iron.
Please help if you have a study supporting this please use my case and explain this that iron can lead to condition like mine so i can show it to hospital management and take it forward.
Thank you
Please advise me what should I do. Should I take legal help?

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