Hereditary hemochromatosis (he-moe-kroe-muh-TOE-sis) causes your body to absorb too much iron from the food you eat. The excess iron is stored in your organs, especially your liver, heart and pancreas. The excess iron can poison these organs, leading to life-threatening conditions such as cancer, heart arrhythmias and cirrhosis.
Many people inherit the faulty genes that cause hemochromatosis — it is the most common genetic disease in Caucasians. But only a minority of those with the genes develop serious problems. Hemochromatosis is more likely to be serious in men.
Signs and symptoms of hereditary hemochromatosis usually appear in midlife. Iron can be dropped to safe levels by regularly removing blood from your body.
Feb. 18, 2015
- AskMayoExpert. Hereditary hemochromatosis. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2012.
- Bacon BR, et al. Diagnosis and management of hemochromatosis: 2011 Practice Guideline by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases. Hepatology. 2011;54:328.
- What is hemochromatosis? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hemo/. Accessed Nov. 7, 2012.
- Eng KG, et al. Natural history and management of HFE-Hemochromatosis. Seminars in Liver Disease. 2011;31:293.
- Hemochromatosis. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/hemochromatosis/index.htm. Accessed Nov. 12, 2012.
- Poterucha JJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Nov. 29, 2012.
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