How is hereditary hemochromatosis treated?
The goal of the treatment is to lower the level of iron in your blood back to normal. Usually, this is done by removing blood from your body (called phlebotomy [say: flee-bot-oh-me]) on a regular basis. It's just like donating blood.
Your doctor will tell you how often you need to have your blood removed (usually once or twice a week until your iron levels are normal, then less often).
If you have hereditary hemochromatosis, you can do some things to help:
- Don't take iron supplements, not even vitamins with iron in them.
- Don't take vitamin C supplements.
- Don't eat very much red meat.
- Don't drink very much alcohol. You might give up all alcohol. Too much iron plus alcohol can make liver disease worse. Ask your doctor if you can drink alcohol and how much is OK for you to drink.
- Don't eat raw shellfish. Don't even touch raw shellfish, because you have an increased risk of bacterial infection.
What is the outlook for people with hereditary hemochromatosis?
With early diagnosis and treatment, nearly all the long-term problems of hereditary hemochromatosis can be prevented. If the illness is diagnosed and treated before you get cirrhosis or diabetes, your life expectancy should be normal.
Recognition and Management of Hereditary Hemochromatosis by DJ Brandhagen, VF Fairbanks, W Baldus (American Family Physician March 01, 2002, http://www.aafp.org/afp/20020301/853.html)
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff