Treatments for hemochromatosis include therapeutic phlebotomy (fleh-BOT-o-me), iron chelation (ke-LAY-shun) therapy, dietary changes, and treatment for complications.
The goals of treating hemochromatosis include:
Therapeutic phlebotomy is a procedure that removes blood (and iron) from your body. A needle is inserted into a vein, and your blood flows through an airtight tube into a sterile container or bag.
The process is similar to donating blood; it can be done at blood donation centers, hospital donation centers, or a doctor's office.
In the first stage of treatment, about 1 pint of blood is removed once or twice a week. After your iron levels return to normal, you may continue phlebotomy treatments. However, you may need them less often—typically every 2–4 months.
As long as treatment continues, which often is for the rest of your life, you'll need frequent blood tests to check your iron levels.
Iron chelation therapy uses medicine to remove excess iron from your body. This treatment is a good option for people who can't have routine blood removal.
The medicine used in iron chelation therapy is either injected or taken orally (by mouth). Injected iron chelation therapy is done at a doctor's office. Oral iron chelation therapy can be done at home.
Your doctor may suggest that you change your diet if you have hemochromatosis. You may be advised to:
Your doctor may prescribe other treatments as needed for complications such as liver disease, heart problems, or diabetes.
The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.