Treatment for Hemochromatosis
A two-step process is involved in hemochromatosis treatment: ridding the body of excess iron and regularly removing blood to keep iron levels within a normal range. The earlier this treatment is begun, the better. If certain conditions have developed prior to diagnosis, such as diabetes or liver disease, they can be managed, but not cured.
Treatment for hemochromatosis is simple, inexpensive, and safe. The first step is to remove excess iron; the second step is to donate blood on a regular basis.
The first step in hemochromatosis treatment is to rid the body of excess iron. The process is called phlebotomy, which means removing blood the same way it is drawn from donors at blood banks. Depending on how severe the iron overload is, a pint of blood will be taken once or twice a week for several months to a year, and occasionally longer.
Blood ferritin levels will be tested periodically to monitor iron levels. The goal is to bring these levels to the low end of normal and keep them there. Depending on the lab, that means 25 to 50 micrograms of ferritin per liter of serum (blood). Depending on the amount of iron overload at diagnosis, reaching normal levels can take many phlebotomies.
Once iron levels return to normal, maintenance treatment for hemochromatosis involves giving a pint of blood every two to four months for life. Some people may need to do this more often. An annual blood ferritin test will help determine how often blood should be removed.
People with hemochromatosis should not take iron supplements. Those who have liver damage should not drink alcoholic beverages because they may further damage the liver.