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Hemochromatosis (pronounced "he-muh-chrome-uh-toe-sis") is a genetic disorder that causes the body to absorb and store too much iron. Certain vitamins and minerals are normally stored in the liver, and iron is one of them. However, too much iron stored in the liver can damage it, and cause hepatitis, a viral liver infection. Excess iron is also deposited in other organs and tissues, especially the heart and pancreas, causing damage to these organs, too. It is also called "bronze diabetes".
The disorder runs in families. The adult form of hemochromatosis most often affects white men of European descent who are older than 50. Hemochromatosis occurs more commonly in adults than originally thought. It is estimated that this type of hemochromatosis affects as many as one in every 300–400 people.
In neonatal hemochromatosis, hepatitis progresses so quickly that babies who have it often do not survive their first week after birth, are stillborn, or die in the womb.
Neonatal hemochromatitis is an extremely rare condition; only about 100 cases have been reported. However, experts have recently speculated that many babies who die shortly after birth may have hemochromatosis.
Neonatal hemochromatosis may affect later pregnancies, but no ante-natal test is available yet. However, once the condition has been identified in a family, mothers can be carefully monitored throughout any later pregnancies, and tests can be performed once the baby is born.
Symptoms may include:
Babies with neonatal hemochromatosis are often very ill when they are born, so doctors perform tests right away to rule out or confirm the diagnosis. Tests may include:
Hemochromatosis progresses slowly in adults, so they are often able to control the disease with medication, and by restricting iron in their diet. Sometimes their iron levels can be returned to normal by having about 500 mL of blood removed each week over the course of two to three years.
Because neonatal hemochromatosis moves much more quickly, a liver transplant is the best treatment currently available for babies who have the disease. In fact, neneonatal hemochromatosis was the reason for the world's youngest-ever liver transplant on a five-day-old baby girl.
Learn about other Liver Disease States.
Children's Hospital's main campus is located in the Lawrenceville neighborhood. Our main hospital address is:
Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC
One Children’s Hospital Way
4401 Penn Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
In addition to the main hospital, Children's has many convenient locations in other neighborhoods throughout the greater Pittsburgh region.
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