Health A-Z

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The traditional treatment for hemochromatosis is periodic removal of blood (phlebotomy), as is done during blood donation. Blood may be removed as often as once a week until iron levels fall to normal. After that, phlebotomy usually needs to be done about every two to four months to keep iron levels in the blood at an acceptable level. Your blood count will be monitored to make sure that too much blood is not being removed, which can lead to anemia. You may be given recommendations to modify your diet. You also may need treatment for specific disorders, such as diabetes.

Another approach to treatment is called chelation therapy, in which a medication called deferoxamine (Desferal) binds to iron, removing it from the body and lowering the amount of stored iron. However, phlebotomy is so effective and simple that chelation therapy is rarely necessary.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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