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Hemochromatosis (Iron Overload) (cont.)

Medical Treatment for Hemochromatosis

Treatment of hemochromatosis typically involves removal of excess iron, any supportive measures for the involved organs, and treatment of hemochromatosis-related conditions.

The removal of iron is usually initiated by weekly or twice weekly phlebotomy (removal of blood from the body) of 500cc of blood from a vein. Transferrin saturation and ferritin levels can be monitored routinely, and once the levels become normal, then the phlebotomies can be done less frequently (every few months). The normalization of these levels can sometimes take up to one to two years. Phlebotomy can be done in the physician's office, blood banks, or hospitals.

If hemochromatosis is diagnosed or treated early, most of the complications of the disease may be prevented by doing routine phlebotomy.

  • Some of the manifestations of hemochromatosis can be prevented or reversed, such as skin discoloration, heart rhythm problems, diabetes mellitus, or early liver disease.
  • Cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver cancer, and advanced heart failure are manifestations of advanced hereditary hemochromatosis which may not be reversed. Arthritis and testicular dysfunction are also usually not reversible.

Routine treatment of diabetes mellitus, heart failure, and liver insufficiency may be done similar to the conventional therapy of these conditions. Loss of libido may be partially corrected withtestosterone treatment.

In severe cases of advanced liver failure due to cirrhosis, liver transplantation may be a recommended option.

Hemochromatosis Medications

Chelating agents (deferoxamine) have been used to remove iron from the body in patients with hemochromatosis. These agents bind to the iron and remove it from the body. They are not as effective as phlebotomy and are rarely used; however, they can be an option in patients who may suffer concomitantly from anemia and may not tolerate phlebotomy.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/5/2016

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