What is siderosis? What are the causes of siderosis?

Siderosis refers to the abnormal deposition of iron in tissue. Excess amount of iron may accumulate in bone marrow, liver and spleen. The cause of siderosis can be excessive destruction of red cells and improper diets with high iron content. Iron or iron oxide dust inhalation in the workplace will also lead to siderosis.  Siderosis is also called "welder's lung" as welding fumes contain iron dust. Those who work under such circumstances should take proper precautions. African siderosis is the term to refer to the siderosis caused by excessive amount of dietary iron. Those who are addicted to beer is also at high risk of siderosis. Beer, though low in alcohol content is prepared in iron drums, which has the potential to boost the iron intake. Accumulation of hemosiderin in the brain leads to a relatively rare siderosis called superficial siderosis (SS) of the central nervous system. Around 87 cases of superficial siderosis are reported worldwide. The first case of SS was reported in the Chicago Neurological society in 1908. It was R.C.Hamill who first discovered the disease.

What are the symptoms of siderosis?

Symptoms of siderosis include

  • Growth delay in children
  • Heart failure
  • Diabetes mellitus due to endocrine dysfunction
  • Liver cirrhosis

The following symptoms are associated with superficial siderosis.

  • Sensory neural hearing loss
  • Gait impairment (ataxia)
  • Pyramidal signs
  • Dementia
  • Bladder disorder
  • Loss of sensation of smell (anosmia)
  • Anisocoria (characterized by unequal size of the eye’s pupils)

How is siderosis diagnosed?

Based on medical history and x-ray a doctor can diagnose siderosis. Small opaque spots in the chest x-ray are indicators of siderosis. MRI is needed to diagnose superficial siderosis.

How is siderosis treated?

Apart from giving you the necessary precautions to avoid the intake of excessive iron, siderosis is not generally treated. Iron chelators are reported to be used for the treatment of superficial siderosis. This medication is not yet proved to be effective.

Can siderosis be prevented?

Siderosis is preventable. The risk of developing siderosis can be reduced to zero if necessary precautions are sought to avoid breathing in iron particles.