Iron has many functions in your body, such as moving oxygen and regulating the growth of your cells. Some people experience iron deficiency, and low levels of iron can lead to tiredness, poor immune system function and slow mental function. An iron-rich diet or iron supplements often restores iron levels, but too much iron could result in iron overload. Understanding whether symptoms such as vision problems indicate iron overload may help you know when to contact a doctor.
Iron overload, also referred to as hemochromatosis, may cause a number of symptoms. Many of these involve other health conditions, making diagnosis difficult in some cases. Warning signs may include fatigue, joint pain, irregular heart rate and hair loss. Diseases and conditions that may have some relationship to iron overload include diabetes, osteoporosis and hypothyroidism, the Iron Disorders Institute says. Iron overload doesn't appear to have any connection to your eyesight.
Even though your vision likely remains directly unaffected by iron overload, related conditions may affect your vision. Diabetics have an increased risk for glaucoma, a condition in which high eye pressures damage side vision. Diabetics also have an increased risk for cataracts and diabetic retinopathy, and these eye conditions may cause significant changes in vision, including blindness. Hypothyroidism may also affect the eyes, a condition known as Graves eye disease. This condition may cause eye dryness, double vision and bulging eyes.
The average male should have an intake of approximately 8mg iron each day, and the average woman requires about 18mg. These requirements may vary depending on your health and how your body processes iron. Your doctor can inform you of a daily intake amount particular to your needs. If you have iron overload, your doctor may recommend that you avoid consuming large quantities of iron-rich foods. Some of these foods include iron-fortified cereals, soybeans, lentils, chicken livers and oysters.
Contact your doctor if you have any changes in vision. Changes may not direct your doctor to iron overload, but your doctor can assess your condition to determine the cause for the changes in your eyesight. You and your doctor may have difficulty detecting iron overload through other symptoms as well, so your doctor will need to test your blood to determine how much iron you have in your system.
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: Hemochromatosis: February, 2009
- Office of Dietary Supplements: National Institutes of Health: Iron
- Iron Disorders Institute: Iron Overload
- National Eye Institute: Facts About Diabetic Retinopathy: February 2011
- University of Illinois at Chicago: Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences: March 1, 1993