Hereditary hemochromatosis is a disorder that causes the body to absorb too much iron, according to Mayo Clinic. This iron is absorbed from nutritional sources and is stored in the organs, particularly the pancreas, heart and liver. Too much iron can lead to life-threatening problems.
When the excess iron in food is stored in the organs, it can cause toxicity and effectively poison the organs, according to Mayo Clinic. Cirrhosis, heart arrhythmias and even cancer can result from untreated hemochromatosis.
Hemochromatosis is the most common hereditary disease in the Caucasian population, notes Mayo Clinic. Although many people inherit the gene for the disorder, not everyone with the gene develops any problems because of it. Men are more apt to develop serious problems from the disease than women, and the onset of symptoms occurs typically in midlife, typically after age 60 in women and between the ages of 50 and 60 in men.
Symptoms of the condition include fatigue, weakness and joint pain, advises Mayo Clinic. The initial symptoms seen in men are usually the result of organ damage, including heart failure, impotence and low libido. Diabetes is also a sign of hemochromatosis.
Treatment of hemochromatosis involves removing blood from the body, according to Mayo Clinic. This procedure is generally enough to drop the levels of iron in the body to nontoxic levels.