Haemochromatosis is an inherited condition where iron slowly builds up in your body — also called iron overload.
Symptoms of haemochromatosis
Because iron builds up slowly over many years, symptoms don’t usually start until you’re 30-60 years of age. Common symptoms include:
yellowing of your skin and eyes — jaundice
Monitor haemochromatosis with a blood test
Haemochromatosis might increase your risk of certain nutrient deficiencies and other conditions. So along with tracking your iron levels, a blood test can help you monitor these.
Ferritin is a protein that stores iron in your body — releasing it when your body needs it. So your ferritin levels are a useful indicator of your body's iron status. If you have haemochromatosis, it can lead to very high ferritin levels.
Iron is a mineral that helps transport oxygen in your body. Measuring your serum iron levels can help you learn more about your iron status. But because your body stores iron and it’s transferred around your body attached to proteins, it’s important to look at it alongside other iron markers.
Total iron binding capacity
A total iron-binding capacity (TIBC) test measures your blood's capacity to bind and transport iron. This can help indicate if you have iron overload.
Transferrin is a protein that transports iron around the body. A transferrin saturation test measures the amount of iron bound to transferrin. If your saturation levels are high, it can indicate if you have iron overload.
Unsaturated iron binding capacity
Unsaturated iron-binding capacity (UIBC) is the amount of iron binding sites on transferrin (transports iron around your body) that aren't bound to iron. If you have iron overload, your UIBC will be low.Unsaturated iron-binding capacity (UIBC) is the amount of iron binding sites on transferrin (transports iron around your body) that aren't bound to iron. If you have iron overload, your UIBC will be low.
If haemochromatosis has affected your liver function, your risk of vitamin D deficiency increases. This is because your liver plays a key role in the production of vitamin D.
Vitamin B12 and B9
Vitamin B12 and vitamin B9 (folate) are essential for making red blood cells. If you’re regularly getting blood drawn to lower your iron levels, it’s important to have adequate levels of these nutrients to support the production of new red blood cells.
HbA1c (diabetes risk)
Haemochromatosis can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes. This is because excess iron can be stored in your pancreas — this produces insulin which helps control your blood sugar levels. This excess iron can damage your pancreas and affect insulin production.
A HbA1c test measures your average blood glucose levels over the last 3 months — which can help indicate your risk.
Over time, excess iron in your body can damage your liver and lead to liver disease.