Review article: the iron overload syndromes


  • This commissioned review article was subject to full peer-review.

Correspondence to:

Dr A. Siddique, Virginia Mason Medical Center, 1201 9th Ave, Seattle WA 98101, USA.




Iron overload syndromes encompass a wide range of hereditary and acquired conditions. Major developments in the field of genetics and the discovery of hepcidin as a central regulator of iron homeostasis have greatly increased our understanding of the pathophysiology of iron overload syndromes.


To review advances in iron regulation and iron overload syndrome with special emphasis on hereditary haemochromatosis, the prototype iron overload syndrome.


A PubMed search using words such as ‘iron overload’, ‘hemochromatosis’, ‘HFE’, ‘Non-HFE’, ‘secondary iron overload’ was undertaken.


Iron overload is associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Sensitive diagnostic tests and effective therapy are widely available and can prevent complications associated with iron accumulation in end- organs. Therapeutic phlebotomy remains the cornerstone of therapy for removal of excess body iron, but novel therapeutic agents including oral iron chelators have been developed for iron overload associated with anaemia.


Iron overload disorders are common. Inexpensive screening tests as well as confirmatory diagnostic tests are widely available. Increased awareness of the causes and importance of early diagnosis and knowledge of the appropriate use of genetic testing are encouraged. The availability of novel treatments should increase therapeutic options for patients with iron overload disorders.