In hereditary hemochromatosis, there is an abnormality of iron absorption in the duodenum, resulting in an abnormal accumulation of iron within the body. The iron accumulates in many organs, but those in liver, pancreas and heart are most important and may eventually result in cirrhosis, diabetes mellitus and/or cardiomyopathy.


Clinical findings in hemochromatosis:

(1) liver dysfunction eventually progressing to cirrhosis

(2) diabetes mellitus

(3) brown skin discoloration

(4) in males, hypogonadism with hair loss and impotence

(5) cardiomyopathy with cardiac arrhythmias

(6) osteoarthritis with pseudogout (calcium pyrophosphate dihydrate deposition)

(7) lethargy, malaise and fatigue


The combination of diabetes and skin pigmentation is referred to as "bronze diabetes".


Men tend to present with the disease at an earlier age. This is because women have sources of blood (and therefore iron) loss such as menstruation and so the rate of iron accumulation is less than for males.


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