Hemochromatosis

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Treatment

The goals of hemochromatosis treatment are to reduce the amount of iron in the body and maintain it at near normal concentrations, to minimize permanent organ damage, and to address complications. If a person has secondary hemochromatosis, then treatment should also address the underlying disorder or condition. Because not all individuals who have the genetic changes need treatment, only those who have organ damage from excess iron are generally treated.

Hemochromatosis is usually treated with phlebotomy therapy, which typically involves the removal of a unit of blood. The frequency and length of treatment depend on the cause and degree of iron overload; for example, in those with severe iron overload, phlebotomy may initially be done once or twice a week, but after the excess iron is removed, phlebotomy may only be done a few times a year.

There is no cure for hereditary hemochromatosis, but it can be successfully managed over a person's lifetime.

Someone who has secondary hemochromatosis may not require long-term blood removal treatment if the underlying condition can be resolved, and if their iron overload is due to many transfusions, it may not be possible to do phlebotomy if the need for transfusions is still present. There are also drugs that bind iron and allow it to be excreted in the urine, and these may be used for people who cannot safely have phlebotomy performed.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of blood from hemochromatosis patients as donor blood. For a list of locations where hemochromatosis patients can go to donate their blood, visit the American Hemochromatosis Society's web page on this subject.

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