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.
If 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.