Skip to content

    Hemochromatosis

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Topic Overview

    What is hemochromatosis?

    Hemochromatosis happens when too much iron builds up in the body. Your body needs iron to make hemoglobin, the part of your blood that carries oxygen to all of your cells. But when there is too much iron, it can damage the liver and heart and lead to other diseases, such as diabetes and arthritis.

    Hemochromatosis can be treated to prevent serious problems. But without treatment, hemochromatosis will continue storing iron in the body. When iron levels are dangerously high, organ and tissue damage can happen.

    Recommended Related to

    What Is Metabolic Acidosis?

    Metabolic acidosis happens when the chemical balance of acids and bases in your blood gets thrown off. Your body: Is making too much acid Isn't getting rid of enough acid Doesn't have enough base to offset a normal amount of acid When any of these happen, chemical reactions and processes in your body don't work right. Although severe episodes can be life-threatening, sometimes metabolic acidosis is a mild condition. You can treat it, but how depends on what's causing it.

    Read the What Is Metabolic Acidosis? article > >

    The most common type of hemochromatosis runs in families. But people sometimes get it from having a lot of blood transfusions, certain blood problems, liver disease, or alcoholism.

    Men are more likely than women to have too much iron built up. Women get rid of extra iron through blood from their menstrual cycles and during pregnancy.

    What are the symptoms?

    Symptoms often don't appear until a person is age 40 or older. This is because extra iron builds up slowly throughout the person's life. And symptoms appear after a certain amount of extra iron builds up.

    The early symptoms are somewhat vague or subtle. So this disease is sometimes mistaken for another condition. Early symptoms include:

    How is hemochromatosis diagnosed?

    Your doctor will do a physical exam and ask about your medical history. If the doctor suspects hemochromatosis, you will have blood tests to see if you have too much iron in your body.

    Most of the time hemochromatosis is caused by a gene that runs in families. It is an autosomal recessive disorder that can be passed to a child from the parents. Hemochromatosis can be found early with a blood test. If you have this disease, you may want to have your children tested to see if they have it. Other family members may also want to be tested. Talking to a genetic counselor will help you decide whether genetic testing is a good idea for you and your family.

    Most medical experts do not think it is helpful to screen for hemochromatosis in the general population using blood tests or genetic tests because hemochromatosis is not common. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) does not recommend genetic screening for hemochromatosis in the general population.1 The general population includes people who do not have symptoms of hemochromatosis and who do not have a parent, brother, sister, or child with the disease.

    1 | 2 | 3
    1 | 2 | 3

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: 2/, 014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
    Next Article:

    Hot Topics

    WebMD Video: Now Playing

    Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

    Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

    Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

    Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

    disciplining a boy
    Types, symptoms, causes.
    fruit drinks
    Eat these to think better.
    embarrassed woman
    Do you feel guilty after eating?
    diabetes supply kit
    Pack and prepare.
    Balding man in mirror
    Treatments & solutions.
    birth control pills
    Which kind is right for you?
    Remember your finger
    Are you getting more forgetful?
    acupuncture needle on shoulder
    10 tips to look and feel good.
    Close up of eye
    12 reasons you're distracted.
    woman biting a big ice cube
    Habits that wreck your teeth.
    pacemaker next to xray
    Treatment options.
    Pink badge on woman chest to support breat cancer
    Myths and facts.

    Women's Health Newsletter

    Find out what women really need.