Bronze diabetes: Ironically, sweet!

  • By Team TDO

Bronze diabetes may be a new medical term for many. Every time we hear such new names, we think these are rare conditions and are being mentioned just to create hype. Not this time. The condition is quite common. It remains relatively unknown because it goes undiagnosed in initial stages and becomes distinct only when complications occur.

The underlying cause for bronze diabetes lies in a condition, commonly called as – iron overload disease. The medical term for it is hemochromatosis.

What is iron overload disease?

As the name indicates, there is excess iron in the body. Normally, a small quantity of iron is stored in the body. However, in this condition, the body is unable to limit the storage appropriately. There is increased amount of iron in the body which gets lodged in various organs. It results from a genetic abnormality. Alternatively, it may also result from certain aberrations in blood biochemistry. This excess iron cannot be utilized by the body and get accumulated. It affects the liver, pancreas, joints, testes, heart and skin.

How does it lead to diabetes?

The iron that goes to the pancreas ends up damaging the organ. It leads to diabetes mellitus. The iron injury to the cells makes them unable to perform regular function. If left undiagnosed in early stages, it may become permanent and may even prove to be fatal. Persistent high blood sugar levels and worsening diabetes may be a result of iron overload.

The underlying condition for bronze diabetes is actually more common than we know, affecting one in 200-300 people.

Why bronze?

Bronze comes into picture because of the iron affection on skin. The excess iron leads to a ‘bronze’ shade of the skin. Together with the symptoms of diabetes, it is also called as bronze diabetes.

What next?

The earlier it is diagnosed, the better is the prognosis. If treated before it has caused any permanent damage, life can return to normal.

Treatment is simply letting off some blood. The blood is laden with iron, so letting off this ‘heavy blood’ in phases is the only way out. Frequent blood donations are recommended. This must always be done under strict medical supervision. Please do not randomly start blood donation. Even if you have bronze diabetes, adequate iron and blood chemistry levels in your body must also be maintained. Therefore, the frequency and quantity of blood donations must be monitored by a medical expert.

In case of damage already done, treatment will depend on the extent of the damage. At any given stage, appropriate intervention will definitely help and prevent further worsening of the condition. Phlebotomy (removing iron rich blood from body) or chelation therapy are done by medical experts.

The condition can be quite easily managed, so don’t be scared of it. If you have any family history, see a doctor. If there are any family members, immediate or extended, near or distant who have been diagnosed with condition, you should get yourself checked. Better safe than sorry.

If iron overload disease is treated in time, diabetes can be avoided.


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