Australian Family Physician
Australian Family Physician


Volume 39, Issue 12, December 2010

Hereditary haemochromatosis Diagnosis and management

Katie Allen
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Hereditary haemochromatosis is a common inherited disorder in which excessive iron is absorbed and which, over time, may cause organ damage. Genetic predisposition leads to disease in some but not all cases.
This article discusses the presentation, testing, treatment and management of hereditary haemochromatosis.
Hereditary haemochromatosis is autosomal recessive and is more common in people of Celtic or northern European descent. Although more than 90% of cases of hereditary haemochromatosis are due to C282Y homozygosity (carrying two copies of the C282Y gene) not all C282Y homozygous individuals will progress through all stages of disease development. Clinical disease is less common in females due to physiological blood loss from menstruation and pregnancy. Most importantly, early diagnosis and treatment of hereditary haemochromatosis prevents complications and results in a normal life expectancy. Venesection is a simple and effective way to both prevent and manage the potential sequelae of iron overload, which include severe fatigue, arthritis, impotence, raised alanine aminotransferase/aspartate aminotransferase, fibrosis or cirrhosis, diabetes, and cardiomyopathy.

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