What is Hemochromatosis?

Hemochromatosis causes your body to absorb too much iron from the food you eat according to Mayoclinic.org. Under normal circumstances, your body absorbs about 10 percent of the iron found in foods, using that iron in the hemoglobin of the blood. This helps the red blood cells carry oxygen to the rest of the body. In people with this condition, too much iron is absorbed, leading to buildup in the vital organs, especially the liver, heart, and pancreas. It can lead to serious complications and should be treated as soon as it is detected. If you think you may have hemochromatosis, contact Dr. Tabib, the  best gastroentologist in Los Angeles to schedule an appointment today.


Joint pain is usually the first symptom of hemochromatosis. This usually presents later in life, around age 50 in men and age 60 in women. It may also cause fatigue or weakness. Because these symptoms can be indicative of other conditions, hemochromatosis is often mistaken for other conditions. More serious conditions can develop as the disease progresses, and may include:

  • Arthritis
  • Abnormal Pigmentation (Bronze or Gray Skin)
  • Adrenal Gland Damage
  • Diabetes / Pancreas Damage
  • Early Menopause
  • Heart Problems
  • Impotence
  • Liver Disease
  • Thyroid Deficiency

The condition is genetic, so if a family member is afflicted, you should consider genetic tests to check for hemochromatosis before the more serious symptoms develop.


Hemochromatosis is the result of a genetic mutation, which affects your body’s ability to properly absorb iron. If a family member has the condition, there is an 85 percent chance that you carry one of the genes that cause it. However, it takes two abnormal genes to develop this condition. Furthermore, only 10 percent of people with the requisite genes actually develop iron overload to the degree that causes tissue and organ damage.

Juvenile hemochromatosis, which afflicts much younger individuals, is caused by a different genetic defect. Neonatal hemochromatosis, which develops in the womb, is thought to be caused by an autoimmune response. There is also a condition known as secondary hemochromatosis, which develops as the result of another disease. These may include anemia, infection, or chronic liver disease.


Blood tests are used to determine if your blood’s iron levels are too high. In some cases, a liver biopsy is needed to see if iron is accumulating in dangerous amounts. If detected early enough, treatment is simple, safe, and inexpensive.

Treatment begins by lowering the iron levels in your blood. This is accomplished through phlebotomy, the same process used at blood banks. A pint of blood is taken once or twice a week, depending on the severity of your condition, for several months to a year. Your blood is tested to monitor the iron levels.

Once your levels have been stabilized, blood is only drawn every two to four months. If your condition has led to organ damage, you may need specialized treatment for those conditions. Unfortunately, joint pain and liver damage are irreversible. There are also some medications that can lower your iron levels.

If you have a history of hemochromatosis in your family and are experiencing symptoms of the disease, contact us to schedule a consultation with Dr. Tabib today.

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Siamak Tabib, M.D., Inc.
8631 W 3rd St Suite 1015E,
Los Angeles, CA 90048

(310) 683-4911

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