In his mid-forties, Bill was a successful businessman and happy with his family life. But then he began to feel tired and depressed. He had pain in his joints and belly, and his skin took on a yellowish tinge. After several years of medical visits and various diagnoses of depression, mid-life crisis, arthritis, and a stress-induced digestive disorder, a few simple blood tests finally revealed that he had hemochromatosis. Bill's story is not unique. Many Americans have this genetic disorder, and many do not know it.

Hemochromatosis (HH) is a condition that causes the body to absorb and store too much iron. Some iron is essential for carrying oxygen in the blood to organs and tissues, but too much is toxic. HH is a common cause of iron overload. Excess iron accumulates in organs such as the heart, liver, joints, pancreas, and pituitary gland. If untreated, this accumulation can cause organ damage, and lead to heart attack, diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver, arthritis, depression, and premature death. The gene for hemochromatosis was isolated in 1996. The mutation can be passed on to offspring.