Hemochromatosis (Hereditary Hemochromatosis) | Iron Overload

Management of hemochromatosis

Your doctor will put a management plan that aims to reduce the iron levels in your body. Reducing iron levels improves your symptoms, such as fatigue, abdominal pain, and skin changes, prevent serious complications, and slow their progression (if occurred). To achieve these goals, your doctor has two options to normalize the iron levels in your body, therapeutic phlebotomy (blood removal) and iron chelation therapy. Also, your doctor will recommend dietary changes to aid these treatment options. Your doctor will also consider any complications to treat them.

Iron reduction therapies

Therapeutic phlebotomy:

This procedure is the 1st choice to reduce iron levels for these patients. Imagine that you are donating blood. Your doctor inserts a needle in a vein -in your arm-, which drains your blood into a blood bag. This withdrawn blood contains iron in the red blood cells; thus, your body will use iron from its stores to compensate them, which reduces the accumulated iron in your organs. This treatment passes with two stages:

  1. Induction (or initial) treatment: You will give a pint (about 450ml) of your blood once or twice a weak till your iron returns to normal.
  2. Maintenance treatment: When your iron levels become under control, you will give blood less often to maintain this control. You may do this every two or three months or two to four times per year. It depends on the rate at which iron builds up in your body. You may need this treatment for the rest of your life.

Iron chelation therapy:

In this therapy, your doctor uses medications to remove iron from your body. These medications bind to the excess iron, which allows your body to excrete it with the urine or stool. Your doctor resorts to this option if you have contraindications for blood removal like anemia or heart problems.

Dietary changes

Your doctor may recommend the following for you:

  • Avoid iron supplements and iron-containing multivitamins.
  • Avoid vitamin-C supplements because vitamin-C increases iron absorption.
  • Avoid alcohol because it worsens your liver condition.
  • Avoid shellfish and raw fish because you are at risk of infections due to your chronic disease (hereditary hemochromatosis).

If you have liver cirrhosis with this disease, your doctor may recommend regular screening for liver cancer.

Finally, hemochromatosis is a chronic disease, but we can put it under control by the early diagnosis that allows early and effective management. Follow your doctor’s instructions, and tell him when new symptoms appear to consider them early.

Written by Martin Davis