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ABSTRACT: Hereditary hemochromatosis is the most common inherited single-gene disorder in people of northern European descent. It is characterized by increased intestinal absorption of iron, with deposition of the iron in multiple organs. Previously, the classic description was combined diabetes mellitus, cutaneous hyperpigmentation and cirrhosis. Increasingly, however, hereditary hemochromatosis is being diagnosed at an earlier, less symptomatic stage. The diagnosis is based on a combination of clinical, laboratory and pathologic findings, including elevated serum transferrin saturation. Life expectancy is usually normal if phlebotomy is initiated before the development of cirrhosis or diabetes mellitus. Hereditary hemochromatosis is associated with mutations in the HFE gene. Between 60 and 93 percent of patients with the disorder are homozygous for a mutation designated C282Y. The HFE gene test is useful in confirming the diagnosis of hereditary hemochromatosis, screening adult family members of patients with HFE mutations and resolving ambiguities concerning iron overload.
Hereditary Hemochromatosis - Article
ABSTRACT: Hereditary hemochromatosis is an autosomal recessive disorder that disrupts the body’s regulation of iron. It is the most common genetic disease in whites. Men have a 24-fold increased rate of iron-overload disease compared with women. Persons who are homozygous for the HFE gene mutation C282Y comprise 85 to 90 percent of phenotypically affected persons. End-organ damage or clinical manifestations of hereditary hemochromatosis occur in approximately 10 percent of persons homozygous for C282Y. Symptoms of hereditary hemochromatosis are nonspecific and typically absent in the early stages. If present, symptoms may include weakness, lethargy, arthralgias, and impotence. Later manifestations include arthralgias, osteoporosis, cirrhosis, hepatocellular cancer, cardiomyopathy, dysrhythmia, diabetes mellitus, and hypogonadism. Diagnosis requires confirmation of increased serum ferritin levels and transferrin saturation, with or without symptoms. Subtyping is based on genotypic expression. Serum ferritin measurement is the most useful prognostic indicator of disease severity. Liver biopsy is performed to stage the degree of fibrosis with severe ferritin elevation or transaminitis, or to diagnose nonclassical hereditary hemochromatosis in patients with other genetic defects. Treatment of hereditary hemochromatosis requires phlebotomy, and the frequency is guided by serial measurements of serum ferritin levels and transferrin saturation. Iron avidity can result from overtreatment. If iron avidity is not suspected, it may mimic undertreatment with persistently elevated transferrin saturation. Dietary modification is generally unnecessary. Universal screening for hereditary hemochromatosis is not recommended, but testing should be performed in first-degree relatives of patients with classical HFE-related hemochromatosis, those with evidence of active liver disease, and patients with abnormal iron study results. Screening for hepatocellular carcinoma is reserved for those with hereditary hemochromatosis and cirrhosis.