Part II Hemochromatosis – How its Diagnosed & Rx.


It can be tricky for your doctor to diagnose hemochromatosis, because other conditions have the same symptoms. He might want you to get tested if:

  • You’re having symptoms.
  • You have one of the problems listed above.
  • A family member has the disorder.

There are some other ways your doctor can figure out if you have it:

Checking your history. He’ll ask about your family and if anyone has hemochromatosis or signs of it. He might also ask about things like arthritis and liver disease, which might mean you or someone in your family has hemochromatosis but doesn’t know it.

Physical exam. Your doctor will examine your body. This involves using a stethoscope to listen to what’s going on inside. He might also tap on different parts of your body.

Blood tests. Two tests can give your doctor a clue about hemochromatosis:

  • Transferrin saturation. This shows how much iron is stuck to transferrin, a protein that carries iron in your blood.
  • Serum ferritin. This test measures the amount of ferritin, a protein that stores iron, in your blood. – If either of these show you have more iron than you should, your doctor might order a third test to see if you have a gene that causes hemochromatosis.
  • Liver biopsy. Your doctor will take a small piece of your liver. He’ll look at it under a microscope to see if there’s any liver damage.
  • MRI. This is a scan that uses magnets and radio waves to take a picture of your organs.


    If you have primary hemochromatosis, doctors treat it by removing blood from your body on a regular basis. It’s alot like donating blood. Your doctor will insert a needle into a vein in your arm or leg. The blood flows through the needle and into a tube that’s attached to a bag.

    • Initial treatment schedule. In the beginning, you may have a pint (about 470 milliliters) of blood taken once or twice a week — usually in a hospital or your provider’s office. While you lean back in a chair, a needle is inserted into a vein in your arm. The blood flows from the needle into a tube that’s attached to a blood bag. The process of removing blood is referred to as therapeutic blood removal.  In the Initial treatment. You’ll visit your doctor’s office or a hospital once or twice a week to have your blood drawn. You may have up to a pint taken at a time.
    • Maintenance treatment schedule. Once your iron levels go down, blood can be removed less often, typically every 2 to 3 months. Some people may maintain typical iron levels without having any blood taken. Some may need to have blood removed monthly. The schedule depends on how quickly iron builds up in your body.  So Maintenance treatment starts when once your blood iron levels have gone back to normal, you’ll still have to have to have blood taken, but not as often. It’ll be based on how fast iron builds back up in your body.

    The goal is to remove some of your blood so that your iron levels return to normal. This could take up to a year or more. Blood removal is divided into two parts: initial treatment and maintenance treatment.



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