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What is Hereditary Hemochromatosis?

By on July 2, 2012 in Diseases with 0 Comments


What is hemochromatosis?

Hemochromatosis is a condition that causes the body to absorb and store too much iron. When the body has too much iron, it is called “iron overload”. Iron overload can damage tissues and organs, especially liver, heart and pancreas.

What are some signs of hereditary hemochromatosis?

Signs and symptoms of hereditary hemochromatosis are different from one person to another. Men are more likely to have symptoms than women. Although born with it, most people with hereditary hemochromatosis does not show any symptoms of the disease to reach middle age. Symptoms can also change depending on how much iron you have in your diet or if you are taking iron pills or drink alcohol.

Early symptoms include fatigue, abdominal pain, joint pain or impotence. For women, abnormal periods or early menopause may also be a sign.

People who have a high iron level may have gray or bronze skin. Laboratory tests may be abnormal. It is possible that the liver is enlarged or damaged, and may develop cirrhosis, which is permanent scarring in the liver. Other signs of hereditary hemochromatosis include diabetes and heart problems.

How is hereditary hemochromatosis treated?

The goal of treatment is to reduce the level of iron in the blood to return to normal. Usually, this is accomplished by withdrawing blood from the body (called phlebotomy) regularly. This is similar to donating blood.

Your doctor will tell you how often blood should be removed (usually once or twice a week until iron levels are normal, then less frequently).

If you have hereditary hemochromatosis, you can do some things to help:

  • Do not take iron supplements or even vitamins with iron.
  • Do not take supplements of vitamin C.
  • Do not eat much red meat.
  • Do not drink too much alcohol. You could stop drinking completely. Excess iron with alcohol can make liver disease worse. Ask your doctor if you can drink alcohol and how much is OK to drink.
  • Do not eat raw shellfish. Do not even touch raw seafood, it has a higher risk of bacterial infection.

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