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Dx Iron Overload/ Hemochromatosis Treatment:

Iron Overload

The Merck Manual Home Edition
"Iron is essential for life, so the body usually tightly controls iron absorption from food and recycles the iron from red blood cells. People lose small amounts of iron every day, and even a healthy diet contains only a small amount of iron. Thus, people rarely have too much iron in their body. Causes of excess iron in the body (iron overload) include the following:
*A genetic disorder that increases iron absorption (hemochromatosis)
*Repeated blood transfusions
*Taking too many pills containing iron
Excessive breakdown of red blood cells

When the body gradually takes in more iron than it needs, the excess iron is deposited in tissues throughout the body. Symptoms and complications can occur if iron accumulates in the endocrine organs (especially the pancreas, gonads, and pituitary gland), liver, and heart.

Taking in a large amount of iron all at once, such as in an overdose of iron pills, can be very dangerous. Iron poisoning damages the digestive tract, liver, heart and brain, and can be fatal.

If there is bleeding within an organ, such as in the lungs of people who have certain types of lung disease, iron from the blood cells often remains in that organ (hemosiderosis). Such locally excess iron does not cause any complications."

The goal of treatment is to reduce the body's iron content. For some people, treatment is to remove blood (phlebotomy)[Editor: This could be donating a unit at the Red Cross]. However, many people with secondary iron overload also have anemia. Because phlebotomy worsens anemia, these people are given iron chelation therapy.

Iron chelation may be given by mouth using deferasirox or by an infusion which can be given under the skin (subcutaneous) or into a vein (intravenous) using deferoxamine. The infusion is usually given overnight. Side effects include digestive upset, low blood pressure, and severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). Sometimes people have hearing and vision loss with long-term use. Iron chelation drugs given by mouth are very effective in lowering the iron level in the body. Side effects of oral iron chelation include abdominal pain, diarrhea, and rash. The treatment sometimes causes liver and kidney damage, so blood tests are done periodically to monitor the function of these organs.

Medications used for Treatment of the Disease:
1. Metal Chelators: Exjade®/deferasirox, Desferal®/deferoxamine, Ferriprox®/deferiprone

Suggested Links:
*N.H.S. Choices (with Video) on Hemochromatosis
*Medscape on Hemochromatosis
*American Liver Foundation

*[Editor] This is not to be confused with EDTA chelation that is described by some alternative physicians as an alternative treatment to clear the plaque in the arteries. In the review of the literature, there are no double blind trials that support the testimony of a number of patients whom have been seen in a medical setting.

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