The hemochromatosis gene, known as HFE, helps regulate the body’s absorption of iron. Some people can inherit a mutation to this gene that causes their bodies to absorb too much iron. Most cases occur due to C282Y and H63D mutations. When this happens, a person can develop hemochromatosis.
If these mutations occur, a person will develop complications and symptoms at a younger age. They may also develop complications by the time they are teenagers.
This article reviews what the hemochromatosis gene is, symptoms associated with hemochromatosis, and more on how a person inherits the gene.
Hereditary hemochromatosis is a genetic disease that alters how the body regulates iron absorption. The condition causes a person’s iron levels to increase to dangerous levels.
According to the
A person who inherits one copy of the mutated gene will either not develop signs and symptoms or experience mild symptoms.
When functioning normally, this gene helps regulate and prevent the excessive absorption of iron. When too much iron circulates in the body, it can cause damage to tissues and organs.
Some affected areas
- endocrine glands
Hereditary hemochromatosis affects
When too much iron consistently enters the body, a person may start to experience symptoms related to the condition.
- joint pain
- abdominal pain around the liver
- loss of interest in sex
- erectile dysfunction
- a general feeling of being tired or weak
People may also experience a darkening of their skin color, which initially appears on sun-exposed areas such as their face. This is often known as “bronzing”.
Not everyone will develop symptoms. Additionally, symptoms usually occur after a person reaches 40 years old, and females may develop symptoms 10 years later compared to males.
Without treatment, a person may develop complications that could cause additional symptoms. Some potential complications
Both parents can carry the hereditary hemochromatosis gene.
According to the
When a person inherits only one copy of the gene, they may not develop any symptoms of the condition at all, or they may only develop slight symptoms. In these cases, they may become “silent carriers” of the condition.
In other words, if they have a child with another silent carrier, their child has a chance of inheriting two mutated genes and a higher chance of developing hemochromatosis.
Parents pass the hemochromatosis gene to their children. A child inherits two copies of the gene, one from each parent.
The affected genes may be recessive or dominant, which affects how many copies of the genes a person needs to develop the condition.
According to the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD), a child of two recessive gene carriers has a:
- 25% chance of developing hemochromatosis
- 50% of becoming a carrier
- 25% chance that they will have two working copies of the genes
On the other hand, a child with a dominant gene change has a:
- 50% chance of developing hemochromatosis
- 50% chance of being unaffected
Several potential mutations can occur within the genes that can cause hereditary hemochromatosis to develop.
The location of the mutation determines the type of hereditary hemochromatosis a person may develop. Healthcare professionals classify the type of hereditary hemochromatosis based on the age of onset, which genes are affected, and how it is inherited.
A person can inherit an autosomal recessive condition if they inherit one copy of a mutated gene from each parent.
Individuals can develop an autosomal dominant condition if they inherit a single copy of the mutated gene from one parent. A person has a 50% chance of inheriting the mutated gene and developing the condition.
GARD states that the mutations can occur on the following genes:
|Hemochromatosis type||Affected genes||Age of symptom onset||How it is inherited|
|Type 1||HFE||40–60 years old||Autosomal recessive|
|Type 2||HFE2 or HAMP||Begins during childhood||Autosomal recessive|
|Type 3||TFR2||Before 30 years old||Autosomal recessive|
|Type 4||SLC40A1||Any time between childhood and adulthood||Autosomal dominant|
Type 5 hereditary hemochromatosis occurs due to changes with the FTH1 gene. Only one family in Japan has reported the condition.
According to a
Gene testing can confirm a hereditary hemochromatosis diagnosis.
A person with hemochromatosis will need regular testing as part of their treatment. Testing can help check iron levels and look for complications related to too much iron.
A person with hemochromatosis has a good chance of living a normal, healthy lifespan provided they seek treatment for their condition.
Without diagnosis and treatment, a person has a
At first, a person will
Regular treatment can help prevent complications and reduce their impact on a person’s life if they have already begun. As a result, a person should seek treatment even if complications have already started.
A person who has a sibling living with hereditary hemochromatosis should speak with a doctor about undergoing genetic testing due to an increased risk of also having the mutated genes.
Additionally, a person with a parent who either has the condition or is a known carrier should speak with a doctor about genetic testing.
Finally, a person who knows they may have the mutated genes should speak with a doctor if they develop any symptoms that could indicate a problem with iron absorption.
Hereditary hemochromatosis can occur when a person inherits one or more copies of a mutated HFE gene. Hemochromatosis results in the body absorbing too much iron, which can lead to complications, such as cirrhosis.
A person should seek treatment for the condition as soon as possible to help prevent complications. Treatment typically involves blood draws to help reduce iron levels.
A person should also contact a doctor if they experience symptoms of iron absorption issues and have a known family member who either is living with the condition or may be a carrier.