640 South State StreetDover, Delaware 19901
21 West Clarke AvenueMilford, Delaware 19963
401 North Carter RoadSmyrna, DE 19977
640 S. State StreetDover DE 1990121 West Clarke AvenueMilford DE 19963
301 Jefferson AveMilford, DE 19963
1275 S. State StreetDover, Delaware 19901
Hereditary hemochromatosis is one of the most common genetic disorders in the U.S. It is a metabolic disorder that causes increased absorption of iron from the digestive tract. The iron is deposited in the body tissues and organs. Over time, the iron builds up in the body where it may become toxic and cause damage. Excess iron in the heart, liver, pancreas, and pituitary causes the more severe complications of this condition.
Other forms of hemochromatosis include:
Hemochromatosis is a genetic disease, meaning it is inherited. It is most common in white people. Males and females are equally affected by the disease.
You may be born with hemochromatosis if you inherit two hemochromatosis genes — one from each parent. If you have only one hemochromatosis gene, you don’t have symptoms and are said to be a carrier of the gene. A carrier has an increased chance to have a child with hemochromatosis.
Once parents have had a child with hemochromatosis, there is a 1 in 4, or 25% chance with each future pregnancy for another child to be born with hemochromatosis. First-degree relatives of people with known hemochromatosis should undergo screening for the disorder.
Iron overload from hereditary hemochromatosis is more common in men than women. The age of onset is also earlier in males than females. The reasons for these differences are thought to be because of the protective effect of iron loss through menstruation in females. In other words, females do not build up iron as quickly over time.
The following are the most common symptoms of hemochromatosis. However, each person may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
Untreated or severe hemochromatosis may lead to the following:
Hemochromatosis is usually found through a routine blood test. Along with a complete medical history and physical exam, you may have one or more of these tests:
Specific treatment for hemochromatosis will be determined by your health care provider based on:
Treatment may include:
If hereditary hemochromatosis is discovered and iron stores returned to normal before damage to organs occurs, people with it will live a normal lifespan.
Untreated hemochromatosis can lead to:
Hemochromatosis is a life-long condition that can cause complications if iron levels in the blood are not kept at normal levels. Therefore, periodic phlebotomy and/or chelation therapy is needed to reduce iron levels. It is important that you work with your health care provider to monitor and manage your iron levels. You should also avoid iron and vitamin C supplements, and excessive intake of alcohol.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your health care provider:
Bayhealth is Southern Delaware’s healthcare leader with hospitals in Dover and in Milford. Bayhealth provides a wide range of medical services, including cardiovascular, cancer, orthopaedics and rehabilitation, pediatrics, respiratory care, sleep care, surgical weight loss and women’s services.