We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is Hemosiderin?

By Synthia L. Rose
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

One of two iron-storage substances present in animals, hemosiderin is a brownish-blue pigmented complex that stores unbound iron molecules that are not metabolically active. A type of macrophage or white blood cell, hemosiderin corrals inactive heme iron inside certain cells, such as bone marrow cells, spleen cells and liver cells, preventing the body from amassing high levels of unbound iron. Unbound iron, also known as free iron, can be toxic if left to build up in the body.

Hemoglobin, a molecule that is responsible for carrying iron safely in red blood cells, is a precursor to hemosiderin. After hemoglobin has released iron for various metabolic processes, it stores the remaining iron in two macrophages: ferritin and hemosiderin. Hemosiderin and ferritin are different in that ferritin stores iron in both plasma and cells; also, hemosiderin only stores inactive iron in cells. Ferritin is soluble while hemosiderin is insoluble.

Hemosiderin is considered a degraded and oxidized form of ferritin. That means it is a form of ferritin that has bound to oxygen molecules and has been broken down by the lysosomes, organelles that surround ferritin and use digestive acids to deteriorate it. The makeup of hemosiderin is believed to be iron oxide, various denatured proteins, and ferritin.

While free iron is the most dangerous form of iron, inactive iron stores are also considered toxic at abnormally high levels. Studies of patients with iron overload have found excess storage of inactive iron way beyond the typical 0.07 oz. (2 g) to 0.21 oz. (6 g) of stored iron found in most people. For example, patients diagnosed with hemochromatosis, a genetic disorder that prevents iron from metabolizing properly, may have 0.7 oz. (20 g) to 1.77 oz. (50 g) of stored iron, putting their organs at risk of malfunctioning due to iron poisoning.

Excess amounts of the bluish inactive iron in the liver can lead to cirrhosis, whereas too much iron storage in heart tissue can lead to cardiomyopathy. Too much iron in the pancreas contributes to diabetes mellitus. In joints, an overabundance of stored iron can cause polyarthropathy, which is a condition where joints are inflamed. High iron stores can also cause hyperpigmentation in the skin. A dearth of stored iron, however, can also cause ailments; patients with too little inactive iron storage may have iron deficiency anemia.

Detection of the brown or blue tint of hemosiderin in medical tests can reveal conditions involving injury to doctors. For example, the presence of the stored iron in urine can indicate intravascular hemolysis, which is a destruction of red blood cells. Hemorrhages in the brain or elsewhere in the body can also be detected by the presence of the bluish-brown iron in surrounding tissues.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Link to Sources
Discussion Comments
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.