What is it?
Hemochromatosis or HHC is a condition of excessive body iron. The gut absorbs too much iron and this iron is stored in the liver, leading to liver damage including cirrhosis and liver cancer. Other organs including the pancreas and heart can be damaged as well.
Who gets it?
HHC is an inherited disorder and is more common in men. It is much more commonly found in Caucasians than Asians or those of African descent. Having the gene that predisposes to the condition is much more common than having the actual disorder.
How do I know if I have it?
HHC is silent early in the disease, but later can lead to joint pain, fatigue, diabetes, loss of sex drive and erectile dysfunction and even heart arrhythmias or heart failure.
How is it evaluated?
HHC is first suspected when iron stores are found to be elevated by blood tests.
A liver biopsy is usually needed to determine if the liver has too much iron it.
Can it be treated?
The treatment for HHC is to lower the body’s iron stores with phlebotomy (removing blood). In some patients, a chelating agent is given to bind the iron.
Hereditary hemochromatosis is treatable but if missed, leads to cirrhosis and increased risk of liver cancer.