What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Hemochromatosis?

Hemochromatosis can affect many parts of the body and cause various signs and symptoms. Many of the signs and symptoms are similar to those of other diseases.

Signs and symptoms of hemochromatosis usually don't occur until middle age. Women are more likely to have general symptoms first, such as fatigue (tiredness). In men, complications such as diabetes or cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) often are the first signs of the disease.

Signs and symptoms also vary based on the severity of the disease. Common signs and symptoms of hemochromatosis include joint pain, fatigue, general weakness, weight loss, and stomach pain.

Not everyone who has hemochromatosis has signs or symptoms of the disease. Estimates of how many people develop signs and symptoms vary greatly. Some estimates suggest that as many as half of all people who have the disease don't have signs or symptoms.

Hemochromatosis Complications

If hemochromatosis isn't found and treated early, iron builds up in your body and can lead to:

  • Liver disease, including an enlarged liver, liver failure, liver cancer, or cirrhosis (scarring of the liver)
  • Heart problems, including arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) and heart failure
  • Diabetes, especially in people who have a family history of diabetes
  • Joint damage and pain, including arthritis
  • Reproductive organ failure, such as erectile dysfunction (impotence), shrinkage of the testicles, and loss of sex drive in men, and absence of the menstrual cycle and early menopause in women
  • Changes in skin color that make the skin look gray or bronze
  • Underactive pituitary and thyroid glands
  • Damage to the adrenal glands



Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health