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Hemochromatosis

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How is it treated?

Treatment for hemochromatosis includes:

  • Phlebotomy. This is the most common treatment. It is like donating blood and is done on a regular schedule.
  • Chelation therapy (also called chelating agents). This is medicine that help your body get rid of excess iron. It might be used in some people who can't have phlebotomy.

Treatment can:

  • Safely and quickly remove excess iron from the blood.
  • Limit the progression and possible complications of the disorder.
  • Prevent organ damage, such as in the liver or heart.

Most people need treatment for the rest of their lives. But some people may not need further treatment if their iron levels return to normal and the hemochromatosis is clearly caused by another disease or by a treatment for another disease (such as blood transfusions).

Can hemochromatosis be prevented?

Having hemochromatosis in your family doesn't mean that you will automatically get it. If you find out that you have inherited a gene that causes hemochromatosis, that means you are more likely to get hemochromatosis. Your doctor or a genetic counselor can help you understand the results of a gene test. You might watch for symptoms so that if you do get hemochromatosis, you can get treatment as early as possible. Early treatment can reverse most symptoms and prevent future problems.

How can I take care of myself at home?

At home, you can take steps to make sure you are not getting too much iron in food or drinks.

  • Limit or do not drink alcohol. If you drink alcohol, you absorb more iron from food and raise your risk of liver damage (cirrhosis).
  • Do not take extra vitamin C supplements (more than 200 mg a day). Extra vitamin C can increase the amount of iron you absorb from food. But it's okay to eat and drink foods that naturally contain vitamin C.
  • Do not take nutritional supplements or vitamins that contain iron.
  • If you get phlebotomy treatment, ask your doctor if you should change the foods you eat. If you need to lower the amount of iron in your diet, you can eat less red meat and iron-fortified food, such as cereals.
  • Drink tea and coffee. These drinks—tea more than coffee—can cause your body to absorb less iron from the food you eat. Drinking these beverages does not replace usual treatment.
  • Do not use iron cookware. Food cooked in ironware can absorb some of the iron.
  • Do not eat uncooked seafood. It can contain a bacteria that's harmful to people who have hemochromatosis.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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