Contributor: Gordon K. Klintworth
Secondary hemochromatosis is a type of hemochromatosis in which iron overloading is caused by conditions, such as thalassemia, sideroblastic anemia [anemia - sideroblastic], cooking in iron pots and excessive ethanol ingestion, rather than because of an inherited disorder in iron absorption [hemochromatosis - primary]. Hemochromatosis can be diagnosed by the presence of stainable iron in a liver biopsy. Treatment includes iron depletion by repeated phlebotomies. Iron becomes deposited in various tissues, such as the pancreas, liver, heart, and pituitary gland. The patterns of iron distribution in the different tpes of primary hemachromatosis is identical and so are the complications that develop from iron overload and which lead to death at a premature age. These complications include cardiac disease, failure of endocrine glands (bronze diabetes, hypogonadism, hypopituitarism), liver disease (liver cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma [carcinoma - hepatocellular]), arthropathy, and skin pigmentation. The differential diagnosis includes not only primary hemochromatosis, but the underlying cause of the secondary hemochromatosis.