Hemopause Illustrated: a different view of menopause and iron overload

by Stephen Cobb on October 25, 2019

I decided to make a diagram to illustrate the concept of hemopause, the tendency of doctors not to recognize the symptoms of a potentially fatal condition known as iron overload –  caused by hereditary hemochromatosis (HH) – in menopausal women.
hemopause-chartHopefully, this diagram will help more people visualize the problem that I have described in articles like Menopause or Hemopause? The biological irony of a medical misdiagnosis.

I made a variation of the diagram to show the points in time where testing can be particularly effective for avoiding hemopause.hemopause-TESTs

I know some people are wary of genetic testing, but there is considerable benefit in knowing whether or not your children have the genetic mutation that can cause iron overloading. The mutation is present in about 1 in 250 people whose genetic history is Northern European, although it can be present in people who do not self-identify as white or Caucasian.

If the HFE mutation is documented then getting the blood tests that indicate excess iron in the body should be much easier (some healthcare systems require grounds to suspect high iron levels before approving testing of iron levels).

If you know you have the HFE mutation, your iron levels should be checked every year as a precaution, regardless of gender. If you are a woman who does not know her HFE status, then you would be well-advised to get those iron tests as you approach menopause, and have the test repeated every year until several years after periods cease.

Remember, with early detection, iron overload can be treated – cheaply and with relatively little discomfort – and organ damage can be avoided.


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