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Haemochromatosis symptoms usually begin between 30 to 60 years of age, but they can occur earlier.

The symptoms tend to develop earlier in men than in women. Women often do not experience problems until after the menopause.

Sometimes there are no symptoms and the condition is only found during a blood test.

Early symptoms

Early symptoms of haemochromatosis can include:

  • feeling very tired all the time (fatigue)
  • weight loss
  • weakness
  • joint pain
  • unable to get or maintain an erection (erectile dysfunction)
  • irregular periods or absent periods

These symptoms can have many different causes. They may sometimes be because you're getting older.

Later problems

As the condition progresses, it can also cause problems such as:

  • loss of sex drive (libido)
  • darkening of the skin, if you are white you may look permanently tanned
  • tummy (abdominal) pain and swelling
  • yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • feeling thirsty all the time and needing to pee frequently
  • severe pain and stiffness in your joints, particularly in the fingers
  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • swelling of your hands and feet
  • an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
  • the testicles getting smaller

These problems are often caused by complications of haemochromatosis. They can happen if the condition is not treated early on.

When to see a GP

See a GP if you have:

  • persistent or worrying symptoms that could be caused by haemochromatosis
  • a parent or sibling with haemochromatosis, even if you do not have symptoms yourself. Tests can be done to check if you're at risk of developing problems

Talk to the GP about having blood tests to check for haemochromatosis.

Read more about how haemochromatosis is diagnosed

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE.

page last reviewed: 22/12/2020
next review due: 22/12/2023

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.