What is Haemochromatosis?
Haemochromatosis is the most common genetic disorder in Australia. About 1 in 200 people of northern European origin have the genetic risk for haemochromatosis. People with haemochromatosis absorb too much iron from their diet. The excess iron is stored in the body. Over time this leads to iron overload.
We all know that not enough iron causes health problems but few realise that for some, too much iron is also a problem. If undetected and untreated, the excess iron can cause organ or tissue damage and can potentially result in premature death.
Haemochromatosis tends to be under-diagnosed, partly because its symptoms are similar to those caused by a range of other illnesses.
Both sexes are at risk from haemochromatosis. Women tend to develop the condition later in life because of blood loss during child bearing years. However some women will develop symptoms at an early age.
The good news is that if haemochromatosis is detected before damage occurs, it can be easily treated and is no barrier to a happy and successful life.
The body typically stores around one gram or less of iron. However, a person with haemochromatosis absorbs a great deal more iron from their food than is necessary. Iron stores of five grams or more can build up inside the body. Organs such as the liver, heart and pancreas are affected and ultimately damaged. Without treatment, haemochromatosis can cause premature death.
For people with haemochromatosis the excess iron stored in the organs and joints increases gradually over many years. The liver can become enlarged and damaged, leading to serious diseases such as cirrhosis or liver cancer. It can also cause other health problems including heart disease, diabetes, endocrine and sexual dysfunction and arthritis.
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?
For various reasons, not everyone can donate through Australian Red Cross Lifeblood or do not have access to nearby donor centre.
We at Elite Medical Centre, provide Venesection regularly.
How much does it cost?
it would be only $50 out of pocket fee for medicare card holders.
Please feel free to call us on (03) 9070 0953 for further information.