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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)



* Not a rare disease

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Hemochromatosis is a condition in which too much iron builds up in the body (iron overload). Accumulation of iron in the organs is toxic and can result in organ failure. While many organs can be affected, it may especially affect the liver, heart, and pancreas. Symptoms of hemochromatosis tend to develop gradually and often don't appear until middle age or later. The condition may not be diagnosed until iron accumulation is excessive. Early symptoms may be vague, such as fatigue or weakness. Other symptoms or features may include joint pain, abdominal pain, loss of sex drive, arthritis, liver disease, diabetes, heart problems, and skin discoloration.[1] Hemochromatosis may be hereditary or acquired (secondary) due to another condition such as anemia, chronic liver disease, or an infection.[2] There is also a neonatal form. Hereditary hemochromatosis is classified by type based on age of onset, genetic cause and mode of inheritance:[3]

Treatment usually involves removing blood (phlebotomy), which prevents additional organ damage but does not reverse existing damage.[2][4]

Last updated: 11/19/2015


  1. Hemochromatosis. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). February 2011;
  2. Hemochromatosis. Mayo Clinic. February 18, 2015;
  3. Hereditary hemochromatosis. Genetics Home Reference. May, 2015;
  4. Candido E. Rivera. Hemochromatosis. Merck Manual. 2015;
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Basic Information

  • You can obtain information on this topic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC is recognized as the lead federal agency for developing and applying disease prevention and control, environmental health, and health promotion and education activities designed to improve the health of the people of the United States.
  • DermNet NZ is an online resource about skin diseases developed by the New Zealand Dermatological Society Incorporated. DermNet NZ provides information about this condition.
  • Genetics Home Reference (GHR) contains information on Hemochromatosis. This website is maintained by the National Library of Medicine.
  • MedlinePlus was designed by the National Library of Medicine to help you research your health questions, and it provides more information about this topic.
  • The Merck Manual provides information on this condition for patients and caregivers. 
  • The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) provides leadership for a national program in diseases of the heart, blood vessels, lung, and blood; blood resources; and sleep disorders. Since October 1997, the NHLBI has also had administrative responsibility for the NIH Woman's Health Initiative. Click on the link to view information on this topic.
  • The National Human Genome Research Institute's (NHGRI) mission encompasses a broad range of studies aimed at understanding the structure and function of the human genome and its role in health and disease. Click on the link to view the information page on this topic.

In Depth Information

  • Medscape Reference provides information on this topic. You may need to register to view the medical textbook, but registration is free.
  • The Merck Manual for health care professionals provides information on Hemochromatosis.
  • Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM) is a catalog of human genes and genetic disorders. Each entry has a summary of related medical articles. It is meant for health care professionals and researchers. OMIM is maintained by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. 
  • PubMed is a searchable database of medical literature and lists journal articles that discuss Hemochromatosis. Click on the link to view a sample search on this topic.
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.