print   Print full article

Treatment

The goals of haemochromatosis treatment are to reduce the amount of iron in the body and maintain it at near normal levels, to minimize permanent organ damage, and to address complications. Most importantly, early diagnosis and treatment of HH prevents complications and results in a normal life expectancy. If a person has acquired haemochromatosis, then treatment should also address the underlying disorder or condition. With regards to HH because not all individuals who have the genetic changes need treatment, only those who have organ damage from excess iron are generally identified and treated.

Venesection is a simple and effective way to both prevent and manage the condition. It involves withdrawing a unit of blood at frequent intervals to reduce body iron stores as determined by the ferritin level. The frequency and length of treatment depend on the degree of iron overload. Once iron levels are normalised, units of blood are withdrawn at longer intervals to avoid re-accumulation. The monitoring is particularly done with ferritin. The treatment, which should be life-long, is usually well tolerated.

Someone who has acquired haemochromatosis may not require long-term blood removal treatment if the underlying condition can be resolved--and if their iron overload is due to many transfusions, it may not be possible to do venesection if the need for transfusions is still present. There are also drugs that bind iron and allow it to be eliminated in the urine, (iron chelation drugs) and drugs that reduce gastric acid production (proton pump inhibitors) that reduce the amount of iron in food that is absorbed. These may be used for people who cannot safely have venesection performed.




Treatment of hereditary haemochromatosis consists of withdrawing a unit of blood at frequent intervals to reduce body iron stores as determined by the ferritin level. The frequency and length of treatment depend on the degree of iron overload. Once iron levels are normalised, units of blood are withdrawn at longer intervals to avoid re-accumulation. The treatment, which should be life-long, is usually well tolerated.


Last Review Date: June 8, 2019