Haemochromatosis is caused by a faulty gene that can be passed from parents to a child. The faulty gene is usually the HFE gene.
If you have haemochromatosis, you cannot control how much iron you have in your blood. Your iron level increases over time and builds up in your organs or joints. This can cause damage and complications.
How haemochromatosis is inherited
You can get haemochromatosis if both your parents have the faulty gene and you inherit 1 copy from each parent.
If you only inherit the faulty gene from 1 parent, you will be a 'carrier'. But you will not develop haemochromatosis. There is a 1 in 2 chance that you will pass on the faulty gene to your children.
In certain ethnic groups, such as people with a Celtic background, it's common to be a carrier of the faulty HFE gene.
If you and your partner are carriers and you have a baby, there's a:
- 1 in 4 (25%) chance your baby will not have haemochromatosis and will not be a carrier
- 1 in 2 (50%) chance your baby will not have haemochromatosis but will be a carrier
- 1 in 4 (25%) chance your baby will have haemochromatosis
Inheriting 2 copies of the faulty gene does not mean you'll get haemochromatosis.
Only a small number of people with 2 copies of the faulty HFE gene will develop the condition.