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Liver & Pancreas Disorders Message Board


Liver & Pancreas Disorders Board Index


Hi Again RP. A wee bit more of my "invaluable information" for you...

Have you looked at the possibility of Hemochromatosis??? A genetic condition common in "Caucasians of Western European descent", where iron is absorbed at a high rate in the gut and builds up and damages the liver?

Symptoms are often seen in "men between the ages of 30 and 50" and present as classic liver fibrosis symptoms. The liver symptoms are usually accompanied by joint pain and "bronzing" (darkening) of the skin.

Treatment is simple, but absolutely essential... They simply drain some blood from a vein in your arm (like in blood donation) until your iron levels return to normal and the damage stops. The test for hemochromatosis is equally easy... A blood test for "ferritin" and free iron.

You poured down the pints pretty good there for a few years, yet it is unusual for so much damage to occur so quickly at your age provided you were eating. I suppose the pain meds could have contributed, but you must realize how unusual it is to experience this much damage so early, and hemochromatosis would explain this quite well.

Aside from genetic hemochromatosis, there is also "secondary hemochromatosis" which can be caused by alcoholism! Some homework for you... Look up: "alcohol and iron overload in the liver" (without the quotes). You should find iron overload, (particularly in the liver!) is a common problem with chronic alcohol consumption. Once you develop iron overload, it can remain for years, even after you quit drinking.

Iron is a VERY powerful pro-oxidant, and can pre-dispose liver damage whenever it is high. I've even seen opinions the reason women tend to outlive men is due to the fact that they lose iron through menstruation and therefore have less oxidative stress on their bodies over their lifetimes. Studies have also shown blood donors enjoy better health because of their donations.

Speaking of blood donors... Donation is the easiest way to dump excess iron from your body. You are supposed to be in good health to donate blood, so I don't know if they would take you. Fair warning... The needle they use is quite large! About the size of a pencil lead, but it really doesn't hurt much more than the smaller needles they use to draw blood for testing. It takes about 10 minutes for them to draw half a liter, and it would take several donations (every other month) to draw down your iron levels. Still, if you've got alcohol related iron overload in your liver, this could add years to your life. If you've got hemochromatosis, this is the only way to save your life!

I've been a blood donor for 20 years, and I've noticed I seem to feel better in the weeks after I've donated. Perhaps this is why I also could drink for 35 years before I ran into trouble!

I don't see why you can't just go see your doc and tell him you've been feeling tired and just want a check-up. If you haven't been drinking in over a year your enzymes shouldn't be embarrassingly high. Ferritin and free iron are not normally included in basic blood work so you would need to ask for these. You could tell him you found a relative who had hemochromatosis and want to rule this out as a reason for your fatigue. Albumin may also be something he may not order unless you ask for it. A CBC (complete blood count including platelets) and liver panel is also essential.

As your "drinking enzymes" are normal now, but your iron levels may very well be high, you might be able to blame the whole thing on this "mysterious iron overload" and save face. One thing is for sure... If you've got iron overload, either from hemochromatosis, or drinking, and it goes untreated, your health will most likely continue to decline.

In my humble opinion, the "Holy Grail" of cirrhosis survival is to stop or slow down new fibrosis generation on as many fronts as possible... Anti-fibrotics (coffee/caffeine), avoiding pro-oxidants (alcohol and polyunsaturated fats and oils), lecithin from egg yokes (liver health and regeneration), and, if you do your research, I think you'll agree dumping some iron may also help.

There's simply got to be a way to get your labs done. Now that you're sober, I don't see what difference it makes when your doc finds out you are sick. Sooner or later, he will. Just tell him you haven't a clue what's going on and you'd like some tests. I'd bite the bullet and get 'er done!

Best Wishes,
Bill





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