Haemochromatosis is an inherited condition in which iron levels in the body slowly build up over many years.

This build-up of iron, known as iron overload, can cause unpleasant symptoms. If it isn't treated, thiscan damage parts of the body such as the liver, joints, pancreas and heart.

Haemochromatosis most often affects people of white north European background, and is particularly common in countries where lots of people have a Celtic background, such as Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

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When to see your GP



Possible complications

Symptoms of haemochromatosis

Symptoms of haemochromatosis usually start between the ages of 30 and 60.

Common symptoms include:

  • feeling very tired all the time (fatigue)
  • weight loss
  • weakness
  • Joint pain
  • in men, aninability to get or maintain an erection (erectile dysfunction)
  • in women, irregular periods or absent periods

Only a small number of people with two copies of this genetic fault will ever develop the condition. It's not clear exactly why this is.


Complications of haemochromatosis

If the condition is diagnosed and treated early on, haemochromatosis doesn't affect life expectancy and is unlikely to result in serious problems.

But if it's not found until it's more advanced, the high iron levels can damage parts of the body.

This can lead to potentially serious complications, such as:

  • liverproblems including scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) or liver cancer
  • diabetes where the level of sugar in the blood becomes too high
  • arthritis pain and swelling in the joints
  • heart failure where the heart is unable to pump blood around the body properly


Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 8 Nov 2016