What is it?
Haemochromatosis is an inherited condition that causes the body to absorb too much iron. If it is not treated, haemochromatosis can lead to organ damage. A number of blood tests can be done to see if you have haemochromatosis. Treatment to control the condition is readily available but is needed throughout life.
What are the symptoms?
Most people develop symptoms between 30 and 60 years. Early on, most people have no symptoms.
Symptoms may include:
- pain in the abdomen
- pain in the joints
- unexplained tanning of the skin.
Without treatment, organ damage can lead to:
- liver problems
- diabetes from damage to the pancreas
- heart problems
- loss of sex drive or erection problems
- thyroid problems
- Avoid iron supplements and multivitamins containing iron. These can increase your iron levels even more.
- Avoid vitamin C supplements. Vitamin C increases absorption of iron. Theres usually no need to restrict vitamin C in your diet, however.
- Avoid alcohol. Alcohol greatly increases the risk of liver damage in people with hereditary hemochromatosis. If you have hereditary hemochromatosis and you already have liver disease, avoid alcohol completely.
- Avoid eating raw fish and shellfish. People with hereditary hemochromatosis are susceptible to infections, particularly those caused by certain bacteria in raw fish and shellfish.
Things to watch out for
GP should be contacted if persistent or worrying symptoms particularly if you have a northern European family background. Haemochromatosis can be treatmented by reducing the amount of iron in the body.