The most common questions about Hemochromatosis answered.
Wondering how to talk to your doctor about hemochromatosis?
What is hemochromatosis?
Hemochromatosis or iron overload is a genetic disorder that affects 1 in 300 Canadians, primarily of Northern European or Celtic descent. It’s the result of the body absorbing and retaining too much dietary iron, which can lead to serious health conditions like heart disease, liver disease and diabetes. Learn more.
What are the symptoms of hemochromatosis?
Many early symptoms of hemochromatosis often go unnoticed, which makes it difficult to diagnose the condition until irreversible damage has occurred. The most common symptoms associated with hemochromatosis are:
- chronic fatigue
- joint pain
- arthritis, especially of the knuckles of the first and second finger, and thumb
- change in skin colour, either bronzing like a tan that never fades or a slate gray
- abdominal pain
- menstrual irregularities
Learn more about common symptoms here.
How is hemochromatosis tested and diagnosed?
Early diagnosis is critical to prevent irreversible damage and premature death. A simple blood test ordered by your doctor will reveal the amount of iron in your blood. Abnormally high iron levels may signal hemochromatosis. Learn more.
How does hemochromatosis affect family members?
If an individual’s genetic test confirms the presence of genetic mutations that cause hemochromatosis, it’s critical for family members to also be tested. First-degree relatives (parents, siblings, and children) are at risk of being carriers of the HFE gene. Learn more.
How is hemochromatosis treated?
The most effective treatment for hemochromatosis is phlebotomy therapy, also called de-ironing. The procedure involves removing excess iron from the body by drawing off a unit of blood using the same technique as a blood donation. Dietary changes can also help manage hemochromatosis. Learn more.
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