Diagnosis of Hereditary Hemochromatosis in the Era of Genetic Testing
Homozygous C282Y mutation in HFE gene is responsible for the majority of hereditary hemochromatosis cases. Since 1996 this mutation can be identified by a simple genetic test.
To determine the clinical presentations in patients with homozygous HFE C282Y mutation and the impact of genetic testing on the time needed for diagnosis.
A total of 414 patients diagnosed with C282Y homozygous hereditary hemochromatosis before and after the introduction of genetic testing were evaluated regarding symptoms and clinical findings at diagnosis as well as first hemochromatosis-related clinical features in their past medical history.
At the time of diagnosis, the predominant symptom was joint pain, in particular of the hands/wrists. Those patients presenting with hand/wrist arthralgia had significantly higher ferritin levels than patients without this joint involvement (p = 0.0005 for males and p < 0.0001 for females). After the introduction of the HFE genetic test an earlier diagnosis after first onset of hemochromatosis-associated clinical features was observed between 2006 and 2009 vs. 2000–2005 p = 0.01).
Arthralgia, in particular of the hands/wrists, is a hallmark of hereditary hemochromatosis and its presence is associated with higher ferritin levels. Despite the availability of a genetic test, it often takes more than 6 years from the first onset of clinical features to diagnose hereditary hemochromatosis. This underlines the importance of raising the awareness of hemochromatosis and its typical clinical presentations.