What are the symptoms?

Iron builds up slowly so symptoms may not appear until age 30 or 40. These symptoms include:

  • Unexplained weakness or fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diminished sex drive or impotence
  • Arthritis particularly if it occurs in the first and second knuckles or/and the ankles
  • Diabetes
  • Liver disorders
  • Discolouration of or bronzing of skin
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Abnormal heart rhythm

The early biochemical signs of haemochromatosis tend to be:

  • Increased serum ferritin and transferrin saturation; and
  • Abnormal liver function tests (LFTs).

Most of these symptoms can be found in other disorders but when arthritis affects the first two finger joints, it is highly suggestive of haemochromatosis.

Most individuals with haemochromatosis will develop at least one or two of the above symptoms, although possibly in a mild form.

When undetected and untreated, iron overload can result in severe organ damage and premature death.