Probably the greatest difficulty in diagnosing early hemochromatosis is that it is non-specific and symptoms are vague. Many sufferers are often diagnosed with the "flu" or "chronic fatigue syndrome". If the correct tests are not done sufferers may even be given iron tablets which further worsen their symptoms.
The earliest symptoms of hemochromatosis are fatigue and aching joints. Once iron has begun to accumulate in body tissues the liver may be affected. In the past it has not been uncommon for sufferers to be suspected or being secret drinkers when abnormal liver function tests are found.
As iron continues to accumulate the condition of the liver may worsen and other organs may be affected.
Other organs which may be involved include the skin, pancreas, ovaries, testes, heart, digestive system, thyroid and joints.
Annoying skin rashes, palpitations, impotence and diabetes may be a consequence of too much iron.
Many patients suffer from recurrent infections and may decide to take "immune boosters" which are metabolized by the liver. This can make their condition worse.
Patients with severe hemochromatosis may present with blood poisoning, heart failure, failure of the reproductive organs and severe arthritis where joint replacement is necessary. In the worst cases liver transplant may be necessary. Men over 55 years of age with severe hemochromatosis have 200 times the chance of developing liver cancer.
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