What are the symptoms?
Iron builds up slowly so symptoms may not appear until age 30 or 40. These symptoms include:
- Chronic fatigue
- Abdominal pain
- Liver disorders
- Skin pigmentation
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.
Chronic fatigue, weakness and lethargy may be ascribed to the after effects of viral infection or to psychological causes, and abdominal pain to irritable bowel syndrome. Similarly, liver disorders may be put down to excessive alcohol intake, even in moderate drinkers.
In such cases haemochromatosis should be considered as a diagnosis. Most individuals with haemochromatosis will develop at least one or two of these symptoms, although possibly in a mild form. The need for treatment does not depend on the presence of symptoms. Anybody with this diagnosis should be treated to remove iron overload.