Alternate Names : Hereditary Hemochromatosis, Idiopathic Hemochromatosis, Bronze Diabetes, Iron Overload Disease
What are the treatments for the disease?
The most effective treatment for hemochromatosis is to remove blood that is saturated by iron. This can be done through simple blood drawing techniques. After the blood is withdrawn, the body makes more blood that is not saturated by iron. Over time the newly formed blood becomes saturated and must also be withdrawn. When hemochromatosis is first recognized, the blood may have to be withdrawn every couple of weeks for 2 to 3 years. Thereafter, it may be withdrawn a couple of times a year. The blood that is withdrawn usually is discarded.
If removal of saturated blood is not possible, chelation therapy can be used to bind the iron and excrete it in the urine. Deferoxamine injections, for example, bind up iron and remove it from the bloodstream. Chelation therapy does not remove nearly as much iron as removing blood from the body. That is why frequent blood draws are the preferred treatment, if at all possible.
If organ damage has already taken place, the resulting conditions such as diabetes, erectile dysfunction, congestive heart failure, and cirrhosis must be treated.
What are the side effects of the treatments?
If only small amounts of blood are withdrawn, there are no side effects of treatment. If too much blood is removed, symptoms of anemia can occur. These can include fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath. Deferoxamine can cause allergic reactions, skin rash, and diarrhea.
What happens after treatment for the disease?
Treatment for hemochromatosis is a life long process. If treatment is stopped, the blood becomes saturated by iron and symptoms will reappear.
How is the disease monitored?
Hemochromatosis is monitored by checking the level of iron every several months.