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Hemochromatosis Type 1 is a hereditary form of this disease, and it causes an excessive absorption of iron from the diet to be stored in the body. Once there is too much iron in the blood, the body is unable to remove it, so it continually builds up, and can affect certain internal organs as well as the joints and skin. Although it is hereditary, the parents may not show any signs or symptoms of the disease, as they are often carriers of the mutated gene but do not have the disease.
Hemochromatosis Type 1: Symptoms
People with hereditary hemochromatosis often don’t show a lot of symptoms, and it is often picked up during routine tests, or when a seemingly minor illness or disorder leads to more investigative procedures. Many often report feeling fatigued, and can have pain in the joints or in the bone. Males are generally not diagnosed until they are in their forties and fifties, and women normally aren't diagnosed until they have gone through menopause. It can affect children, but this is not often seen.
While there are a number of possible symptoms, they can be suggestive of other disorders, and studies have shown that those with an existing liver disease may have an increase in the disease process if they also have hemochromatosis. The main organs that can be affected by hemochromatosis are the liver, the heart and the pancreas. Without treatment, the effects on these organs over a long period of time can be fatal.
The iron overload can seriously damage the liver. Hemochromatosis can cause cirrhosis of the liver, which is usually seen in alcoholics. Cirrhosis itself can lead to several complications, including liver failure, and there is an increased risk of developing cancer of the liver. The cirrhosis can eventually affect the stomach, the esophagus, the abdomen and the brain.
When the pancreas is overloaded with iron, there is a high risk of developing diabetes mellitus or insulin resistance. The pancreas is responsible for the metabolizing of sugar, but if the iron damages it, the whole process of storing and using sugar becomes compromised. Diabetes itself can be a deadly disease, and often causes many serious complications. Insulin resistance often progresses to diabetes mellitus, and is just as dangerous. Combine this with the liver damage, and it is potentially very life threatening.
If excess iron accumulates in the heart, it alters the efficiency of blood circulation. This can lead to congestive heart failure, as well as abnormal heart rhythms. Palpitations, arrhythmias and chest pain are all common features of excess iron in the heart. However, if the excess iron is removed, and treatments are followed, this damage can actually be reversed.