How is haemochromatosis treated?
Treatment consists of the removal of blood by venesection (similar to donating blood). This is also sometimes called phlebotomy. Up to 500mL of blood is removed at regular intervals until the iron levels in the blood return to within the normal range.
This can take up to 18 months with weekly or sometimes twice weekly venesections, depending on the original iron levels of the patient.
Once normal levels of iron are re-established, venesections are used less frequently (three or four times a year) to maintain those levels throughout the patient’s lifetime.
At what level should treatment begin?
At any level above normal – the iron levels should be normalised as quickly as possible. Permanent damage, such as cirrhosis, occurs with iron overload and is irreversible. Your doctor will set up a treatment schedule for you.
Where can I have my venesections done?
Talk to your doctor about the options in your area.
You may be able to have your venesections done through the Australian Red Cross Blood Service. If you meet the normal Red Cross donor requirements, your doctor can refer you for treatment under the Red Cross therapeutic donor program. The Red Cross can use the blood they take, so you may choose to attend a Red Cross Donor Centre. Many of our members are pleased to be able to to contribute to saving a life. We even have our our Club Red group you can join. See our Links page for a link to the Red Cross website with more information.
For various reasons, not everyone can donate through the Red Cross though. Other options for venesection include
• Some hospitals have regular venesection clinics
• Some GPs will perform venesections in their surgery
• Some pathology companies will perform venesections. It is usually best to ring and enquire first as not all collection centres provide this service.
If you are having trouble locating somewhere to have venesections, ring our INFO LINE 1300 019 028. We may be able to suggest somewhere.
Watch this Video
This video runs for 10 minutes. It contains some of the information already covered on previous pages. It also contains interviews with people living with haemochromatosis.
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Reviewed 1 February 2017.