Haemochromatosis. What are the symptoms? How do you know if you have it?

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The following are symptoms and serious consequences of iron accumulation in various parts of the body, sometimes these symptoms may take many years to present themselves, other times, they can surface at a very young age.  Remember, if anyone in the family has haemochromatosis or is a carrier, the whole family should be tested.  Not all symptoms may appear and sometimes symptoms and damage is mild, but if undetected, haemochromatosis can cause catastrophic damage to organs, heart, liver, pancreas, brain.  If you have liver disease or raised liver enzymes, always be careful in taking any medication eg: pain relief medication for symptoms such as arthritis.  It is our recommendation that you check with your doctor first.

Fatigue and lethargy.

Arthritis and joint pain particularly common in the knuckle and first joint of the first two fingers.

Diabetes (often called “bronze diabetes” when it is known that iron overload is the cause).

Liver abnormalities, cirrhosis, fibrosis, liver enlargement.

Heart disease such as cardiomyopathy.

Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are common misdiagnoses.

Loss of Body Hair /Partial loss of body hair eg. on lower legs.

Discoloration of skin, slate grey appearance or bronze discoloration often similar to a suntan.

Loss of sex drive, impotence, infertility, early menopause, scanty or absent menstruation.

Has been attributed to causing Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease in some people.

Abdominal pain

Liver Cancer and other cancers.

Sometimes setting off metal detectors!!

What Symptoms can be reversed by Phlebotomy?

will stop iron accumulating in the tissues and iron stores will be reduced to normal. Unfortunately, some serious clinical conditions such as liver cirrhosis or diabetes will not be cured if they are already present before hand. Early diagnosis is extremely important.

Fatigue, lethargy and abdominal pain should decrease.

Bronze discolouration of the skin should fade.

 Cardiomyopathy should improve unless cardiac damage is severe. In severe cases iron chelation treatment can reverse congestive heart failure.

Liver Cirrhosis will stay the same.

Sexual dysfunction and arthritis do not usually improve.

Most people can expect a normal life expectancy provided their iron overload has not been extremely high for a long period of time when the treatment is started.

Remember, everyone is an individual, just because one person did not have a particular symptom reversed does not necessary mean that it cannot happen! Try to keep a positive attitude and focus on YOU and work with your doctor to get the best results you can, whether by decreasing your symptoms or preventing symptoms and the very destructive effects of haemochromatosis, take control and reduce your iron to safe levels through regular phlebotomies


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