Background: The purpose of the study was to perform a molecular genetic analysis and to document clinical aspects in patients with hereditary hemochromatosis.
Patients and methods: The study included 33 outpatients (23 males average age 50.6 years and 10 females average age 60.6 years) with a disorder of iron metabolism (transferrin saturation > 75 %) as confirmation of hemochromatosis who were subjected to molecular genetic and clinical analyses.
Results: A homozygous mutation of the hemochromatosis (HFE) gene (C282YY) was detected in 63.6 %, a compound heterozygous mutation (C282Y/H63D) in 30.3% and no mutation of the HFE gene was detected in 6.1 %. The following organ manifestations could be objectified: arthralgia (78.8 %), liver disease (39.9 %), skin hyperpigmentation (30.3 %), osteoporosis (24.2 %), diabetes mellitus (24.2 %) and cardiomyopathy (12.1 %). Comparison between patients with heterozygous and homozygous hemochromatosis revealed the following differences: compound heterozygote patients presented less frequently with osteoarthritis of the metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joints and hands (85.7 %/71.4 % homozygotes vs. 60 %/60 % heterozygotes). Osteoarthritis of the shoulder joints and osteoporosis as well as hypothyroidism were more frequent in compound heterozygote patients, whereas osteoarthritis of the knee and hip joints as well as liver disease were more common in homozygote patients. No differences between both groups were seen with respect to the clinical manifestations of cardiomyopathy and diabetes mellitus.
Conclusion: Prevalent causes of death in hereditary hemochromatosis are heart failure, liver disease (cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma) and portal hypertension. Therefore, an early diagnosis, adequate therapy and genetic screening of family members are of great importance. Medicinal treatment will only effectively prevent deleterious organ involvement and subsequent complications if initiated at an early stage. Furthermore, an overview of the current data is given.