Alternate Names : Hereditary Hemochromatosis, Idiopathic Hemochromatosis, Bronze Diabetes, Iron Overload Disease
Hemochromatosis is a genetic disorder that affects the way the body handles iron. It causes iron to accumulate in the organs of affected people. The excessive iron causes the symptoms of the disorder.
What is going on in the body?
Everyone absorbs iron from the food they eat. In a person with hemochromatosis, too much iron is absorbed. The iron accumulates in organs such as the liver, heart, and pancreas. The overload of iron causes liver disease, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.
What are the causes and risks of the disease?
Hemochromatosis is caused by a defective gene. The gene for hemocromatosis is recessive. This means a person must have two copies of this gene to have the disease. People with a single copy of the gene are called carriers. Carriers usually are not affected, although use of alcohol may cause symptoms to appear in them.
One in twenty people of Caucasian ancestry have the defective gene. Hemochromatosis is particularly common among the French and among Mormons in the United States.