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Disease Profile

Hemochromatosis type 1

Prevalence estimates on Rare Medical Network websites are calculated based on data available from numerous sources, including US and European government statistics, the NIH, Orphanet, and published epidemiologic studies. Rare disease population data is recognized to be highly variable, and based on a wide variety of source data and methodologies, so the prevalence data on this site should be assumed to be estimated and cannot be considered to be absolutely correct.


Age of onset





Autosomal dominant A pathogenic variant in only one gene copy in each cell is sufficient to cause an autosomal dominant disease


Autosomal recessive Pathogenic variants in both copies of each gene of the chromosome are needed to cause an autosomal recessive disease and observe the mutant phenotype


dominant X-linked dominant inheritance, sometimes referred to as X-linked dominance, is a mode of genetic inheritance by which a dominant gene is carried on the X chromosome.


recessive Pathogenic variants in both copies of a gene on the X chromosome cause an X-linked recessive disorder


Mitochondrial or multigenic Mitochondrial genetic disorders can be caused by changes (mutations) in either the mitochondrial DNA or nuclear DNA that lead to dysfunction of the mitochondria and inadequate production of energy.


Multigenic or multifactor Inheritance involving many factors, of which at least one is genetic but none is of overwhelming importance, as in the causation of a disease by multiple genetic and environmental factors.


Not applicable


Other names (AKA)

Hemochromatosis classic; Classic hemochromatosis; HFE-associated hereditary hemochromatosis


Hemochromatosis type 1 is a disease in which too much iron builds up in the body. This is also called iron overload. Accumulation of iron in the organs is toxic and can cause organ damage. While many organs can be affected, iron overload is especially likely to affect the liver, heart, and pancreas. Early symptoms of hemochromatosis type 1 can include fatigue, weakness, and joint pain. Other symptoms may include abdominal pain, loss of sex drive, liver disease, diabetes, heart problems, and skin discoloration.[1] Symptoms of hemochromatosis type 1 typically begin between the ages of 40-60 years-old. Hemochromatosis type 1 is the most common type of hemochromatosis, and it affects more men than women.[2]

Hemochromatosis type 1 is caused by genetic changes (mutations or pathogenic variants) to the HFE gene.[2][3] The disease is inherited in an autosomal recessive manner. A diagnosis of hemochromatosis type 1is suspected when a doctor observes signs and symptoms of the disease. A doctor may decide to order laboratory tests including a liver biopsy, MRI, or blood test. The diagnosis can be confirmed with genetic testing.[1] Treatment of hemochromatosis type 1 usually involves reducing iron levels by removing blood (phlebotomy) or iron chelation. These treatments can prevent additional organ damage but typically do not reverse existing damage.[1][4]

To learn more about other types of hemochromatosis click on the disease names below:


This table lists symptoms that people with this disease may have. For most diseases, symptoms will vary from person to person. People with the same disease may not have all the symptoms listed. This information comes from a database called the Human Phenotype Ontology (HPO) . The HPO collects information on symptoms that have been described in medical resources. The HPO is updated regularly. Use the HPO ID to access more in-depth information about a symptom.

Medical Terms Other Names
Learn More:
Percent of people who have these symptoms is not available through HPO
Abdominal pain
Pain in stomach
Stomach pain

[ more ]

Hair loss
Abnormal absence of menstruation
Abnormal heart rate
Heart rhythm disorders
Irregular heart beat
Irregular heartbeat

[ more ]

Disease of the joints
Accumulation of fluid in the abdomen
Autosomal recessive inheritance
Absent sperm in semen
Enlarged heart
Increased heart size

[ more ]

Disease of the heart muscle
Scar tissue replaces healthy tissue in the liver
Congestive heart failure
Cardiac failure
Cardiac failures
Heart failure

[ more ]

Diabetes mellitus
Elevated hepatic transaminase
High liver enzymes
Glucose intolerance
Hepatocellular carcinoma
Enlarged liver
Hyperpigmentation of the skin
Patchy darkened skin
Hypogonadotropic hypogonadism
Difficulty getting a full erection
Difficulty getting an erection

[ more ]

Increased serum ferritin
Elevated serum ferritin
High ferritin level
Increased ferritin
Increased serum ferritin level

[ more ]

Increased serum iron
Pleural effusion
Fluid around lungs
Increased spleen size
Testicular atrophy
Testicular degeneration


Hemochromatosis type 1 is caused by genetic changes (mutations or pathogenic variants) in the HFE gene. The HFE gene provides the body with instructions to make a protein that is located on the surface of cells. This protein helps detect the amount of iron in the body to determine how much iron should be absorbed from the diet. Pathogenic variants in the HFE gene cause these proteins to not be able to correctly tell the body how much iron to absorb. This causes iron to accumulate in tissues and organs, which can result in organ damage.[2][5]


Treatment for hemochromatosis type 1 may include reducing iron levels by removing blood (phlebotomy), iron chelation therapy, dietary changes, and treatment for complications of the disease. The goal of treatment is to reduce the amount of iron in the body to normal levels, prevent or delay organ damage from excess iron, and maintain normal amounts of iron throughout the lifetime.[1]

Phlebotomy helps to remove excess iron from the body. Most people begin treatment with weekly therapeutic phlebotomy, although sometimes treatment is initially twice a week if iron levels are very elevated. Maintenance phlebotomy usually involves treatment every 2-4 months.[6] Iron chelation therapy may be recommended for some people with hemochromatosis type 1 if they have other health issues. This involves removing excess iron using medications.[6]

Dietary recommendations for people with hemochromatosis may include avoiding alcohol and red meat. People with hemochromatosis are not recommended to take iron or vitamin C supplements.[6]

For more detailed information regarding the treatment of hemochromatosis, please reference the Medscape article about hemochromatosis. You may need to register to view the article, but registration is free. 


Support and advocacy groups can help you connect with other patients and families, and they can provide valuable services. Many develop patient-centered information and are the driving force behind research for better treatments and possible cures. They can direct you to research, resources, and services. Many organizations also have experts who serve as medical advisors or provide lists of doctors/clinics. Visit the group’s website or contact them to learn about the services they offer. Inclusion on this list is not an endorsement by GARD.

Organizations Supporting this Disease

    Organizations Providing General Support

      Learn more

      These resources provide more information about this condition or associated symptoms. The in-depth resources contain medical and scientific language that may be hard to understand. You may want to review these resources with a medical professional.

      Where to Start

      • MedlinePlus was designed by the National Library of Medicine to help you research your health questions, and it provides more information about this topic.
      • Genetics Home Reference (GHR) contains information on Hemochromatosis type 1. This website is maintained by the National Library of Medicine.
      • The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NIDDK) offers information on this condition. Click on the link to view information on this topic.
      • The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) has information on this topic. NHLBI is part of the National Institutes of Health and supports research, training, and education for the prevention and treatment of heart, lung, and blood diseases.
      • The National Human Genome Research Institute's (NHGRI) website has an information page on this topic. NHGRI is part of the National Institutes of Health and supports research on the structure and function of the human genome and its role in health and disease.
      • The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) has a report for patients and families about this condition. NORD is a patient advocacy organization for individuals with rare diseases and the organizations that serve them.

        In-Depth Information

        • GeneReviews provides current, expert-authored, peer-reviewed, full-text articles describing the application of genetic testing to the diagnosis, management, and genetic counseling of patients with specific inherited conditions.
        • Medscape Reference provides information on this topic. You may need to register to view the medical textbook, but registration is free.
        • MeSH® (Medical Subject Headings) is a terminology tool used by the National Library of Medicine. Click on the link to view information on this topic.
        • Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM) is a catalog of human genes and genetic disorders. Each entry has a summary of related medical articles. It is meant for health care professionals and researchers. OMIM is maintained by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. 
        • Orphanet is a European reference portal for information on rare diseases and orphan drugs. Access to this database is free of charge.
        • PubMed is a searchable database of medical literature and lists journal articles that discuss Hemochromatosis type 1. Click on the link to view a sample search on this topic.


          1. Hemochromatosis. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/hemochromatosis. Accessed 1/28/2018.
          2. Hereditary hemochromatosis. Genetics Home Reference (GHR). May 2015; https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/hereditary-hemochromatosis.
          3. Hamilton JPA. Hereditary Hemochromatosis. Merck Manual Professional Version. January 2017; https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hematology-and-oncology/iron-overload/hereditary-hemochromatosis.
          4. Gersten T. Hemochromatosis. MedlinePlus. March 16, 2016; https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000327.htm.
          5. HFE gene. Genetics Home Reference. July 2009; https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/gene/HFE.
          6. Duchini A, Sfeir HE, and Klachko DM. Hemochromatosis. Medscape. April 4, 2017; https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/177216-overview.

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