Haemochromatosis is the most common form of iron overload disease. Primary or hereditary haemochromatosis is an inherited disease. Secondary haemochromatosis is caused by anaemia, alcoholism and other disorders.
In haemochromatosis the body takes too much iron from the diet. The iron stores keep rising and, over time, the liver enlarges and becomes damaged leading to serious diseases such as cirrhosis. Other problems include heart disease, diabetes and arthritis.
Estimates suggest one in 300 has the disease haemochromatosis. Both sexes are at risk, but women tend to develop the condition later in life.
Haemochromatosis tends to be under-diagnosed, partly because its symptoms are similar to those caused by a range of other illnesses.