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Hemochromatosis is a condition that occurs when too much iron
builds up in the body. Small amounts of iron are normally stored in the liver
and heart, but excess iron will eventually damage these organs.
There are two types of hemochromatosis:
Hereditary hemochromatosis is one of the most common
genetic disorders in white people, especially those of Northern European
descent. Excess iron
builds up slowly throughout life. Most people with hemochromatosis notice
symptoms when they are age 40 to 60. These symptoms include fatigue, joint
pain, weakness, excess urination, and weight loss.
hemochromatosis is recognized early, it can be treated before other problems
start. It is treated by removing excess iron from the blood, either by removing
blood from the body (phlebotomy) or by taking a medicine (chelating agent) that
binds to and removes iron from the body. Hereditary hemochromatosis requires
treatment throughout a person's life. Acquired hemochromatosis does not need
further treatment after the condition has been corrected.
October 15, 2012
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Brian Leber, MDCM, FRCPC - Hematology
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