Hemochromatosis is a medical condition where an abnormal amount of additional iron builds up in a person’s blood to the point of potentially causing bodily harm and damage to the liver, heart, endocrine glands, joints and more. Research suggests that in the U.S., approximately one out of every 300 non-Hispanic Caucasians suffers from hereditary hemochromatosis, with the majority being of northern European decent.
The most common cause of hemochromatosis is hereditary and determined by genetics. Classic or hereditary hemochromatosis is a genetic condition that often does not appear until people hit middle age.
Interestingly, hemochromatosis is significantly more common among males, with estimates suggesting that men are affected two to three times more frequently than women. Additionally, the initial onset of this inherited disease tends to be slightly earlier in men. This is because women are somewhat “protected” by menstrual blood loss earlier in life.
For more information about hemochromatosis including important facts you should know, follow along.
10 Things to Know About Hemochromatosis
- While hemochromatosis was initially discovered sometime during the 1800s, by 1935 it was known as an inherited condition resulting from too much iron in the body.
- While some people are asymptomatic, common symptoms associated with hemochromatosis include: fatigue, hyperpigmentation of the skin, pain in the joints, stomach pain, weight loss, and decreased libido.
- Serious complications associated with hemochromatosis include diabetes mellitus, cirrhosis of the liver and heart failure.
- While most cases of hemochromatosis are caused by hereditary factors, it is also possible to get hemochromatosis from a buildup of iron due to things like blood transfusions used to treat severe cases of anemia.
- Hemochromatosis can lead to a variety of liver abnormalities including: hepatomegaly or liver enlargement, liver scarring/cirrhosis, portal hypertension, and liver disease. Additionally, hepatocellular carcinoma, a certain type of liver cancer, is sometimes associated with hereditary hemochromatosis.
- Sometimes hemochromatosis impacts the color of a person’s skin, changing it to more of a bronze or gray coloring. In the 1800s, it was called “bronze diabetes” and “pigmented cirrhosis.”
- If you suffer from hemochromatosis, one of the most effective ways to lower the amount of iron in your body tends to be regularly scheduled removal of blood.
- People who have family members (especially siblings) that are diagnosed with hereditary hemochromatosis may want to consider genetic testing.
- Hemochromatosis is often initially diagnosed with a blood test. When someone has a high ratio of iron to transferrin in their blood, it may suggest they are suffering from hemochromatosis. The disease can be confirmed with a blood test to look for the genes causing hemochromatosis.
- According to the National Human Genome Research Institute, HFE, the gene that causes hereditary hemochromatosis, was first identified in 1996 on chromosome 6.
Hemochromatosis is a manageable condition that can be extremely serious if undiagnosed or left untreated. For more information or to arrange diagnostic testing, you should seek out assistance from a qualified medical professional.
If you or someone you love is suffering from hemochromatosis, the experienced team at Gastroenterology Health Partners is here for you. Our clinicians have a passion for seeking out and refining new treatments and advanced solutions for those suffering from disorders of the digestive system. For more information or to schedule a gastroenterological medical evaluation, contact a Gastro Health Partners location near you.