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Division of Epidemiology & Health Planning

275 East Main Street

Frankfort, KY 40621


What is hemochromatosis?

Hemochromatosis is a disease that occurs when the body gradually builds up too much iron from foods and vitamins containing iron. The extra iron can damage your organs and without treatment, cause your organs to fail.

What causes hemochromatosis to occur?

Hemochromatosis is one of the most common genetic diseases in the U.S. A person who inherits the defective gene from both parents may develop the disease. Although this genetic defect is present at birth, its symptoms rarely appear before adulthood.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of the disease include fatigue, weakness, weight loss, and pain in the abdomin and joints.

How can it be detected?

Blood tests can be done at your health care provider's office. These tests measure how much iron is in the body. If the disease is detected in its early stages, treatment can be administered to slow and prevent serious problems from occurring. If left untreated, hemochromatosis can cause arthritis, heart problems, and liver problems.

What types of treatment are available?

The most common treatment is to remove some blood from the body, just like when you donate blood. This is called therapeutic phlebotomy and is safe and effective. Medicines may also help remove the extra iron. Your doctor may also suggest some changes in your diet. Patients can expect a normal life span if they start treatment before organ damage has occurred.

For More Information

For more information on hemochromatosis, visit the CDC Web site or the Iron Disorders Institute.


Last Updated 3/30/2007