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What is Siderosis?

By Jessica F. Black
Updated May 17, 2024
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Siderosis is an environmental disease of the lung primarily caused by the inhalation of dust particles, especially particles of iron. The most well-known cause is through inhalation, but there are other outlets in which one's body can experience an iron overload. Siderosis also can occur through an immensely iron-rich diet or the body's inability to store and metabolize iron properly.

The more obvious symptoms of this disease are severe, such as heart failure and cirrhosis of the liver, and are difficult to determine early in its progression. Although one might not be sure whether he or she is experiencing symptoms of siderosis, one should always disclose to a medical professional any fear that he or she has been exposed to an excess amount of iron. This disclosure will lead to the appropriate tests being administered. There are multiple methods used to detect signs of siderosis.

A physical examination, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, blood work and pulmonary function tests (PFTs) are the primary methods used to determine whether the body is being infected by iron. Physical examination provides access to the patient's personal, professional, medical and nutritional background, which can help conclude whether further testing is needed. MRI scans offer visual signs of tissue damage from siderosis. Blood work contributes key evidence that there is an overload of iron in the body through measurements in the blood system. PFTs measure the expansion and contraction of the lungs, and signs of obstruction also might indicate that the patient is suffering from siderosis.

Patients suspecting symptoms of siderosis accompanied by the knowledge of exposure should seek medical attention immediately. Although knowledge of the disease has increased, no cure for siderosis has been found. Treatment usually entails temporary remedies for the symptoms but not the disease. These remedies mostly apply changes in diet with an increase in protein and amino acids. Alternative vitamin supplements also have been suggested, but the most common home remedies are alfalfa, kale and spinach, all of which are enriched with necessary vitamins and are a good source of antioxidants.

The best care involves taking preventative steps to avoid circumstances that contribute to the disease and self-education in order to understand its early signs. There is extensive room for error in diagnosing this disease because its major symptoms are severe conditions that can stand alone and might not initially be associated with siderosis. Misdiagnosis is considered a vital reason to educate the public on this quiet disease that often gets overlooked.

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