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Abstract

The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between iron overload, age, and clinical symptoms in genetic hemochromatosis. The relationship was studied between clinical symptoms and liver iron concentration, serum ferritin, and iron removed in a retrospective study of 410 homozygotes diagnosed using strict criteria. No significant relationship was found between liver iron concentration, iron removed by venesection, and serum ferritin level with age. The prevalence of cirrhosis, diabetes, cardiac disease, pigmentation, and fatigue increased as liver iron concentration increased. The most common presentations at diagnosis were fatigue or as an incidental finding in all age groups. Twenty-seven percent of patients (110 of 410) had no clinical symptoms of hemochromatosis. Iron accumulation is highly variable in patients with genetic hemochromatosis. The significant relationship between liver iron concentration and cirrhosis, diabetes, cardiac disease, pigmentation, and fatigue confirms the importance of iron toxicity in the pathogenesis of hepatic and extrahepatic disease. The nonspecific nature of the presenting features in patients and the presence of significant clinical symptoms in patients discovered through family investigations underscore the importance of family and population screening for hemochromatosis.