Hemochromatosis means having too much iron in your body. If not treated, it can cause serious health problems. The main aim of treatment is to lower the body’s iron. This helps avoid or control the ill effects of too much iron. We’ll look at how to treat hemochromatosis using medical methods and lifestyle changes. This includes treatments like phlebotomy, chelation therapy, changing your diet, and dealing with complications.

Understanding Hemochromatosis

Hemochromatosis is a genetic disorder that makes the body take in and keep too much iron. This extra iron piles up in the organs, tissues, and joints. It causes many health issues like high blood pressure, joint pain, and a fatty liver.

What is Hemochromatosis?

Hemochromatosis is a health issue where the body takes in too much iron. This extra iron can hurt organs like the liver and heart. The main type comes from genes that mess with how the body absorbs iron.

Causes of Hemochromatosis

The main causes of hemochromatosis is genes. Some people with specific gene changes absorb more iron. This iron build-up can happen in different parts of the body. It leads to the problems linked with this condition. Sometimes, other health problems can also make this condition worse.

Types of Hemochromatosis

There are various types of hemochromatosis:

  • Hereditary hemochromatosis: This is the most usual type, linked with gene changes affecting iron levels.
  • Secondary hemochromatosis: It can happen because of other illnesses or treatments that increase iron levels.
  • Neonatal hemochromatosis: A not so common kind found in newborns. It sometimes needs special care like blood transfusions.

Symptoms and Complications

Spotting early signs of iron overload in hemochromatosis is very important. It helps in getting treatment soon and prevents big health problems. Signs can be feeling tired, joint pain, and changes in skin color. With time, hemochromatosis can cause a lot of health issues.

Early Signs of Iron Overload

Often, people with hemochromatosis don’t notice any signs early on. It’s usually after 40 for men and 60 for women. After menopause, women face higher risks. This is because they don’t shed excess iron as before through their period or pregnancy.

Potential Complications

Not dealing with hemochromatosis can be risky. It can harm the liver, heart, cause diabetes, and change your joints. You might also face a higher chance of some cancers, like liver cancer. Signs of big issues can be feeling tired, losing weight, and yellowing skin or eyes. In such cases, you might feel very thirsty, worn out, have joint pain, and find it tough to breathe.

Knowing the symptoms and risks of hemochromatosis is key to early steps. Early treatment stops it from causing bigger problems. So, catching it soon and managing it right matters a lot for those with this condition.

Hemochromatosis symptoms

Diagnosis and Screening

It’s very important to diagnose hemochromatosis correctly for good treatment. Doctors use blood tests, scans, and sometimes genetic tests to find it.

Blood Tests for Iron Overload

The key sign of hemochromatosis is too much iron in the blood. Tests for ferritin and transferrin check for this. If transferrin saturation is over 45%, it may show high iron levels.

Additional Diagnostic Tests

Besides blood tests, doctors might do other checks to make sure someone has hemochromatosis. They may look at liver function and do MRI scans to see if the liver has too much iron. Sometimes, they do liver biopsies for a closer look at iron and any liver damage.

Genetic Testing for Hereditary Hemochromatosis

For some, genetic testing is needed to know if they have the hereditary type. This looks for specific mutations in the HFE gene like C282Y. Such tests help not only the patient but also their family members by showing who is at risk.

A full diagnosis involves lots of checks – blood, scans, and genes tests. Doing these helps doctors make plans to treat and manage hemochromatosis. This way, they can also prevent other problems.

Medical Treatment: Phlebotomy

The main way to treat hemochromatosis is phlebotomy. This is when doctors take blood often to lower iron. Lowering the iron stops serious sicknesses like liver disease, heart issues, and hurt joints.

How Phlebotomy Works

Phlebotomy is like donating blood. Over a pint of blood is taken out. Doing this removes extra iron, keeping hemochromatosis under control.

Initial Phlebotomy Schedule

In the beginning, patients might give blood once or twice a week for a few months. This plan quickly lowers iron to normal levels.

Maintenance Phlebotomy

After getting to the right iron level, the schedule slows to every 1 to 3 months. This keeps iron from building up again. Sometimes, with good results, it might only be needed 2 to 3 times a year.


Chelation Therapy

Some people with hemochromatosis can’t do phlebotomy due to certain issues. This includes anemia or heart problems. For them, chelation therapy might work. This treatment uses drugs to remove extra iron. This iron leaves the body through pee or poop. Even though it’s not as good as phlebotomy, it helps manage too much iron in those who can’t get blood taken often.

Two common drugs used in chelation therapy are deferasirox and desferrioxamine. Deferasirox is not officially okayed for treating hemochromatosis. But, doctors might use it in some cases. Studies show chelation therapy can lower iron too much and help deal with its problems. This is seen in patients with certain blood disorders.

For people who can’t handle phlebotomy, chelation therapy is a good choice. It works to control high iron levels. This can prevent serious conditions like liver disease or heart problems.

how to treat hemochromatosis

People with hemochromatosis can make changes in their lifestyle and diet to help. They should not take iron supplements or vitamins with iron. These can make their iron levels go up more. It’s also key to not drink too much alcohol. Alcohol can make liver problems worse in this condition.

Lifestyle Modifications

For hemochromatosis, making these lifestyle tweaks is important:

  • Avoiding iron supplements and multivitamins containing iron
  • Limiting alcohol consumption to prevent further liver damage
  • Maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly to support overall health

Dietary Recommendations

They should also follow these dietary tips:

  • Avoiding raw fish and shellfish to cut the chance of getting a bacterial infection
  • Reduce how much vitamin C you eat since it boosts iron absorption
  • Eat a balanced diet that’s not too rich in red meat and iron-rich foods

hemochromatosis dietary recommendations

By living and eating this way, those with hemochromatosis can look after themselves better. They should have fewer problems related to too much iron, like high blood pressure, joint ache, and fatty liver issues.

Managing Complications

People with hemochromatosis have too much iron. They deal with it through blood removal and other ways. Yet, they might still face issues like liver disease, joint problems, and heart troubles. These need special care from doctors.

Treating Liver Disease

Liver problems are a big deal with hemochromatosis. They can lead to conditions like liver cirrhosis and cancer. Treatment may use drugs, small surgeries, or even a new liver in bad cases. Keeping an eye on the liver’s health and acting early is key.

Addressing Joint Pain

Too much iron can hurt the joints. This pain might cause arthritis and joint damage. To help, doctors could use drugs, therapy, or surgery. Early care for the joints helps keep people moving and happy.

Preventing Heart Disease

Hemochromatosis can up the danger of heart issues. This includes heart failure and odd rhythms. Doctors may give drugs, watch the heart closely, and suggest diet and exercise changes. These help the heart stay strong.

Genetic Counseling and Screening

Given the hereditary nature of hemochromatosis, getting checked is vital. Everyone close to a diagnosed person should consider genetic testing. This helps find out if they are at risk, needing early treatment or check ups.

Implications for Family Members

Hereditary hemochromatosis comes from specific genetic changes, like the C282Y one. A diagnosis means family should get tested too. This finds others at risk, allowing early treatment to avoid serious health issues.

Prenatal Screening and Treatment

If hemochromatosis runs in your family, prenatal screening is an option. It can detect the condition in newborns early, starting treatment right away. This early management improves life quality for those predisposed to the disease.

Monitoring and Follow-Up Care

People with hemochromatosis need to be checked often even after their first treatment. They should have regular blood tests to watch their iron levels. It helps keep the condition under control. Doctors might also suggest MRI scans to see how organs are doing. It’s very important to talk to your doctor a lot and follow your treatment plan. This way, you can stop more serious problems like high blood pressure and joint pain.

If you have hemochromatosis, it’s key to find out what caused it, like genetic reasons. Your family should also get checked. This can help spot the condition early and get treatment. By taking these steps, you can lower your risks of long-term health issues caused by too much iron.


Hemochromatosis is a treatable condition that requires careful management. This involves reducing the amount of iron in the body. By learning about its origins and types, patients and doctors can set up a plan to treat it.

Treatment includes regular blood removal, known as phlebotomy. For some, chelation therapy is an alternative. Avoiding iron supplements and cutting back on alcohol are also advised. It’s important to check iron levels often and treat any related health issues promptly.

With the right diagnosis and treatment, people with hemochromatosis can live fully. They can prevent or lessen the effects of health problems linked to this disease. By staying in touch with their healthcare team and following their advice, patients can manage hemochromatosis well. This way, they can improve their health and quality of life.


What is hemochromatosis?

Hemochromatosis means your body has too much iron. It can cause big health problems if not treated.

What are the causes of hemochromatosis?

It mainly comes from genetic changes. These changes stop your body from controlling how much iron it takes in. Other types can happen from diseases that make your body store too much iron.

Can hemochromatosis cause high blood pressure?

Yes, it can make high blood pressure more likely. This happens because too much iron can build up in your organs and tissues.

Why does hemochromatosis cause joint pain?

Too much iron can get into your joints. This causes them to be sore, stiff, and may even damage them.

Can hemochromatosis cause a fatty liver?

Yes, having too much iron in the liver can make it become fatty. This occurs in people with hemochromatosis.

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