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Iron Overload and Hemochromatosis: Home

This Web site provides information about hemochromatosis (HE-mo-KRO-ma-TOE-sis) to help patients and their families learn more about the disease.

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Like other genetic diseases, hemochromatosis runs in families.


The site includes the following information:

What is hemochromatosis?

Hemochromatosis occurs when the body absorbs too much iron from foods (and other sources such as vitamins containing iron). This disease causes extra iron to gradually build up in the body’s tissues and organs, a term called iron overload. If this iron buildup is untreated, it can, over many years, damage the body’s organs.

What are the causes?

Although hemochromatosis can have other causes, in the United States the disease is usually caused by a genetic disorder. A person who inherits the defective gene from both parents may develop hemochromatosis. The genetic defect of hemochromatosis is present at birth, but symptoms rarely appear before adulthood. Because one inherits genes from his or her parents, this type of the disease is also called hereditary hemochromatosis.

What are the symptoms?

Early indications of hemochromatosis include the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue (feeling very tired)
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Joint pain

Because these symptoms also occur with other diseases, hemochromatosis can be difficult to diagnose in its early stages.

How is it detected?

The iron overload associated with hemochromatosis can be detected through two blood tests. The tests measure how much iron is in the body. You can have these tests done in your doctor’s office.

If hemochromatosis is detected early, treatment can slow its progress and prevent serious problems. However, if the disease is not detected and treated early, it can cause more serious problems. These problems include arthritis, heart problems, and liver problems (such as cirrhosis and liver cancer).

What is the treatment?

Treatment consists of periodically taking blood from the arm, much like giving blood. The treatment is safe and effective. Patients can expect a normal life span if they start treatment before organ damage has begun.

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Hemochromatosis: What Every Clinician and Health Care Professional Needs to Know
Hemochromatosis: What Every Clinician and
Health Care Professional Needs to Know

Cover of Iron Overload and Hemocromatosis Brochure:  Information for Patients and Their Families
Iron overload and Hemochromatosis
Information for Patients and Family


Contact Info

Thank you for visiting the CDC-NCBDDD Web site. Click here to contact the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities

We are not able to answer personal medical questions. Please see your health care provider concerning appropriate care, treatment, or other medical advice.

Date last reviewed: 06/18/2008
Content source: Division of Hereditary Blood Disorders, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
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