Haemochromatosis and cardiomyopathy

What is haemochromatosis? 

Haemochromatosis is an inherited condition, where too much iron is absorbed by the body.

Iron from your diet is normally stored in your bone marrow, with small amounts stored in the liver to form new red blood cells.However, in haemochromatosis, an excessive amount of iron (more than the body needs) is absorbed. The iron levels build up as the body is unable to get rid of it. This is called an ‘iron overload’.

Over time this overload leads to a build up of iron in different parts of the body; including the liver, pancreas and joints.

How does haemochromatosis cause cardiomyopathy?

As well as building up in other organs, iron levels can build up in the heart. This happens slowly, and the heart may continue to work well until the overload becomes quite advanced. This can cause restrictive or dilated cardiomyopathy

Knowing that iron overload can affect the heart can help to identify any early symptoms of this and allows treatment to be started earlier. The sooner treatment is started the more likely it is to be effective in reducing and controlling symptoms.

Cardiomyopathy caused by haemochromatosis usually causes symptoms that are collectively known
as ‘heart failure’. 

As well as treating the symptoms of cardiomyopathy, treatment for the underlying haemochromatosis will also be given.