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What are symptoms of hemochromatosis?

Hemochromatosis (HE-mo-kro-ma-TO-sis) is a disease in which too much of iron builds up in your body (iron overload).

Overview
– Iron is a mineral found in many foods.
– Too much iron is toxic to your body.
– It can poison your organs and cause organ failure.
– In hemochromatosis, iron can build up in most of your body’s organs.
– It builds especially in the liver, heart, and pancreas.
– Too much iron in the heart can cause irregular heartbeats called arrhythmias (ah-RITH-me-ahs) and heart failure.
– Too much iron in the pancreas can lead to diabetes.
– If hemochromatosis isn’t treated, it may even cause death.

Too much iron in the liver can cause:
– an enlarged liver,
– liver failure,
– liver cancer,
– cirrhosis (sir-RO-sis): scarring of the liver, which causes the organ to not work well.

Types of Hemochromatosis
The two types of hemochromatosis are primary and secondary.
Primary hemochromatosis is caused by a defect in the genes. These genes control how much iron you absorb from food.
Secondary hemochromatosis usually is the result of another disease or condition that causes iron overload.

Certain factors can affect the severity of the disease:
– A high intake of vitamin C can make hemochromatosis worse.
– This is because vitamin C helps your body absorb iron from food.
– Alcohol use can worsen liver damage.
– Cirrhosis caused by hemochromatosis.
– Conditions such as hepatitis also can further damage or weaken the liver.

How hemochromatosis affects your organs?
– Patients with hereditary hemochromatosis may absorb as much as 30 percent of the iron that is ingested.
– Your body can’t use or eliminate this extra iron, it’s stored in the tissues of major organs, especially the liver.
– Eventually you may accumulate five to 20 times as much iron as normal.
– Over a period of years, the stored iron can severely damage many organs, leading to organ failure and chronic diseases such as cirrhosis and diabetes.

Signs and Symptoms of Hemochromatosis:
– People with hemochromatosis absorb more iron than the body needs.
– The body has no natural way to rid itself of the excess iron, so it is stored in body tissues.
In particular, the:
– Liver
– Heart
– Pancreas.

Hemochromatosis symptoms tend to occur:
– In men between the ages of 30 and 50.
– In women over age 50.
– However, many people have no symptoms when they are diagnosed.
– Hemochromatosis can also develop in newborns and children.

Common Symptoms
– Joint pain is the most common symptom of hemochromatosis.
– Fatigue
– Lack of energy
– Abdominal pain
– Loss of sex drive
– Heart problems

Other Hemochromatosis Symptoms
– Arthritis
– Amenorrhea
– Early menopause
– Impotence (repeated inability to get or keep an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse)
– Shortness of breath.

Advanced Symptoms
Symptoms that can occur in advanced stages of hemochromatosis include:
– Arthritis
– Liver disease, including an enlarged liver, cirrhosis, cancer, and liver failure.
– Damage to the pancreas, possibly causing diabetes.
– Chronic (ongoing) abdominal pain.
– Severe fatigue.
– Weakening of the heart muscle.
– Problems with your heart rate or rhythms.
– Heart failure.
– Abnormal skin color.
– Skin looks gray or bronze.

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