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Hemochromatosis-induced bipolar disorder: a case report.

Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 2011 May 27. [Epub ahead of print]


NESMOS (Neurosciences, Mental Health and Sensory Functions) Department, School of Medicine and Psychology, Sapienza University, Sant’Andrea Hospital, UOC Psychiatry, Via di Grottarossa 1035-1037, 00189 Rome, Italy; Department of Neuropsychiatry, Villa Rosa; Suore Hospitaliere of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Viterbo, Italy.



A patient presenting with Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, bipolar disorder was found to be affected by high iron hemochromatosis. This prompted us to explore the relation between bipolar disorder and iron overload.


We report the case and review the peer-reviewed literature focusing on mood symptoms in patients with hemochromatosis or iron overload. Animal studies of brain effects of iron overload are summarized. High iron hemochromatosis was confirmed by genetic testing, and treatment was instituted to address iron overload.


Patient’s bipolar symptoms completely subsided after phlebotomic reduction of iron overload.


Clinicians should explore the possibility of iron overload and seek genetic confirmation of hemochromatosis in resistant bipolar disorder to avoid unnecessary medication.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Hemochromatosis is an inherited disease in which too much iron builds up in your body. It is one of the most common genetic diseases in the United States. 

Iron is a mineral found in many foods. Your body normally absorbs about 10 percent of the iron in the food you eat. If you have hemochromatosis, you absorb more iron than you need. Your body has no natural way to get rid of the extra iron. It stores it in body tissues, especially the liver, heart and pancreas. The extra iron can damage your organs. Without treatment, it can cause your organs to fail. 

The most common treatment is to remove some blood, just like when you donate blood. This is called therapeutic phlebotomy. Medicines may also help remove the extra iron. Your doctor might suggest some changes in your diet. 

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

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