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.
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
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|Date last updated: 26 August 2008
Topic last reviewed: 17 June 2008