Hemochromatosis (HHC) is a leading cause of iron overload disease. People with HHC absorb extra amounts of iron from the daily diet. The human body cannot rid itself of extra iron. Over time, these excesses build up in major organs such as the heart, liver, pancreas, joints and pituitary. If the extra iron is not removed, these organs can become diseased. Untreated hemochromatosis can be fatal.

Chronic fatigue and joint pain are the most common complaint of people with hemochromatosis. Other common symptoms include, lack of energy, abdominal pain, loss of sex drive, and heart flutters or irregular heart beat. Symptoms usually begin in men in their late 20’s to early 30’s. In women, symptoms usually start about 10-15 years after they stop having a period. If hemochromatosis is not found early and treated, iron may accumulate in body tissues causing disease such as:

•arthritis (osteoarthrithis, osteoporosis) knuckles, ankles and hips
•liver disease, including an enlarged liver, cirrhosis, cancer, and liver failure diabetes
•heart problems ( irregular heart beat, heart attack or heart failure)
•loss of period or early menopause
•abnormal skin color, ashen gray-green or reddish-bronze
•hypothyroidism (which can cause depression)

It is very important to get iron levels down to normal. Therapeutic blood removal or phlebotomy is used to accomplish this. Therapeutic phlebotomy (TP) is the same as regular blood donation but TP requires a doctor’s order (prescription). Regular blood donation can be done every 8 weeks. A person with severe iron overload may need to give blood as much as 8 times in a single month! The goal is to bring blood ferritin levels to a normal range of 25 to 75ng/mL. Depending on the amount of iron overload at diagnosis, reaching normal levels can take many phlebotomies. Serum ferritin drops about 30ng/mL with each full unit (500cc) of blood removed. Once iron levels reach normal, a person can begin maintenance therapy, which involves giving a pint of blood every 2 to 4 months for life. Some people may need to give blood more often depending on what they eat and how quickly their body absorbs iron. The TS% and serum ferritin tests can be done periodically to help determine how often blood should be removed.

For more information on Hemochromatosis please visit hemochromatosis.org

Information provided by www.hemochromatosis.org