Hemochromatosis is a disorder where iron builds up in the body. Early treatment can improve outcomes.
There are two types:
- Hereditary (HH)
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Hereditary hemochromatosis is caused by a faulty gene that is passed from parents to children.
The secondary type may be caused by:
- Blood transfusions
- High iron intake
Things that may raise the risk of HH are:
- Having other family members with this health problem
- Western or Northern European ancestry
Things that may raise the risk of the secondary type are:
Most people do not have symptoms. Those who do may have:
- Joint pain
- Tiredness or weakness
- Belly pain
- Weight loss
- Loss of interest in sex
- Problems maintaining an erection (in men)
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.
Blood tests will be done to check iron levels. This is enough to make the diagnosis. More tests may be done to look for a cause.
The goal of treatment is to lower iron levels. Choices are:
- Regularly removing excess iron from the blood
- Medicines to remove excess iron from the blood
- Dietary changes, such as:
- Not eating high iron foods or taking iron supplements
- Not taking vitamin C supplements, which can increase the amount of iron the body absorbs
- Avoiding alcohol
American Hemochromatosis Society http://www.americanhs.org
American Society of Hematology http://www.hematology.org
Canadian Liver Foundation https://www.liver.ca
Health Canada https://www.canada.ca
Hemochromatosis. American Liver Foundation website. Available at: https://liverfoundation.org/for-patients/about-the-liver/diseases-of-the-liver/hemochromatosis. Accessed Jamuary 12, 2021.
Hemochromatosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/hemochromatosis. Accessed January 12, 2021.
Hemochromatosis. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/liver-disease/hemochromatosis/Pages/facts.aspx. Accessed January 12, 2021.
Pilling L, Tamosauskaite J. Common conditions associated with hereditary haemochromatosis genetic variants: cohort study in UK Biobank BMJ 2019; 364.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD
- Review Date: 02/2020
- Update Date: 01/12/2021