In the early stages of hereditary haemochromatosis, iron begins to build up in the body but people may not show any symptoms. Then as time goes by they may become unwell.
However, people with hereditary haemochromatosis don’t always have the same symptoms. The condition can be difficult to detect and tends to be under-diagnosed, partly because its symptoms are similar to those caused by a range of other illnesses and are vary in their intensity.
Symptoms of hereditary haemochromatosis can include:
- Weakness and generally feeling unwell
- Sore joints (especially in the knuckles, knees and ankles)
- Stomach pains
- Unexplained weight loss
- Irregular heartbeat
- Sexual dysfunction
For people with hereditary haemochromatosis, the extra iron stored in the organs and joints builds up gradually over many years. Over time, the liver becomes damaged, leading to serious diseases such as cirrhosis and liver cancer. Other organs such as heart and pancreas can also be affected and ultimately damaged. Without treatment, haemochromatosis can cause permanent organ damage and even early death.