Content Reviewed March 2014 | Author: The Haemochromatosis Society © 2013
- Chronic fatigue, weakness, lethargy
- Abdominal pain; sometimes in the stomach region or the upper right hand side, sometimes diffuse
- Arthritis; may affect any joint but particularly common in the knuckle and first joint of the first two fingers (the bronze fist - illustrated on the right)
- Diabetes (late onset type)
- Liver disorders; abnormal liver function tests, enlarged liver, cirrhosis
- Sexual disorders; loss of sex drive, impotence in men, absent or scanty menstrual periods and early menopause in women, decrease in body hair
- Cardiomyopathy; disease of the heart muscle (not to be confused with disease of the arteries of the heart)
- Neurological/psychiatric disorders; impaired memory, mood swings, irritability, depression
- Bronzing of the skin, or a permanent tan
Most of these symptoms are found in other disorders. Chronic fatigue may be ascribed to after-effects of a 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 someone who is only a moderate drinker. However, if the above symptoms are present, GH should also be considered as a diagnosis.
Most individuals who have GH will, in due course, develop at least one or two of the above symptoms, although possibly in a very mild form. There may be a long phase of the condition where there are no symptoms. However, if arthritis is found only in the first two finger joints this is highly suggestive of GH.
The need for treatment to remove excess iron does not depend upon the presence of clinical symptoms. The risk of developing a serious complaint such as cirrhosis is much too great to be overlooked.
The information provided by The Haemochromatosis Society is not a substitute for professional care and should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease. If you have, or suspect you may have, a health problem you should consult your doctor.