Haemochromatosis – Treatment and Prevention of Haemochromatosis
Haemochromatosis is a common inherited disorder that causes the body to absorb too much iron from the food. The excess iron builds up in organs such as pancreas, liver and heart. The stored iron damages these organs and leads to serious complications such as liver disease, heart problems and cancers. The disease is caused as a result of mutation in a gene that controls the iron absorption levels in the body. Healthy people absorb around 10% of iron whereas the affected people absorb more than 30% of iron. On an average, 1 out of 400 people are affected with the disorder. The treatment and prevention of haemochromatosis are discussed below.
Treatment of haemochromatosis is simple, inexpensive and safer. The treatment mainly focuses on reducing the iron levels to safe level. Prior to the treatment a serum test is performed that determines the level of iron in the body. There are two treatment methods namely, phlebotomy and chelation therapy that are to be enhanced only through a proper haemochromatosis diet.
This is a standard treatment technique. The doctor removes the blood from the body the same way it is drawn from blood donors. Based on the iron overload in the body tissues, a pint of blood is removed 1 to 2 times a week. This may last for several months to a year. Iron levels are tested periodically in the blood till the blood iron levels come to normal of 25 to 50 milligrams per liter of serum.
Once the normal iron level is obtained, maintenance therapy begins. In this therapy, the individual donates a pint of blood regularly for every 2 to 4 months so that iron levels are prevented from rising up. An yearly blood test is done that determines the frequency of the blood removed.
This therapy uses chemical compounds and body proteins that remove toxic metal substances from the body. The chelation molecules bind to toxic metals and allow the body to excrete the metal through fecal matter and urine. But this is not as effective as phlebotomy treatment. This is used in non genetical cases of iron overload where the chelation molecule removes the iron metal. In cases where the iron levels rise very high, chelation molecules are administered through subcutaneous or intramuscular infections.
While undergoing these treatments, proper diet should be maintained such that iron levels do not rise. The foods that are high in iron content and may increase the iron absorption are to be avoided. The foods include molasses, food cooked in cast iron cookware, 100% breakfast cereals, raw seafood, vitamin supplements, iron rich and iron fortified foods are to be avoided. A rich diet of vegetables and fruits should be taken.
Prevention of Haemochromatosis
Haemochromatosis cannot be prevented because it is an inherited disorder. Only the complications that arise due to ths disease such as diabetes, heart failure, arthritis and cirrhosis can be prevented by early detection and treatment. Here are some methods to prevent the risk of haemochromatosis:
- Avoiding foods rich in vitamin C and iron supplements helps to prevent the disease.
- Sreening family members of a person diagnosed with the disease
- Avoid drinking alcohol as this can cause liver diseases.