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What is Hemochromatosis?

Hereditary hemochromatosis is a blood disorder that causes your body to absorb too much iron from the food you eat. Too much iron is toxic to your body, and excess amounts are stored in your body’s tissues and organs. Over time, the iron buildup can damage your tissues and organs.

Too much iron in your heart, liver, pancreas, or pituitary can cause severe problems.

Types of hemochromatosis include:

  • Juvenile hemochromatosis, a rare inherited condition that affects teens and young adults ages 15 to 30. It leads to a severe iron overload and can cause heart and liver disease.
  • Neonatal hemochromatosis, an inherited form in which iron builds up very quickly in a baby’s liver before birth, which can cause severe organ damage.
  • Transfusion-related hemochromatosis, occurring in people who need many blood transfusions due to certain blood disorders. Over time, these transfusions can cause iron overload.

Schedule an appointment with a UR Medicine provider.

Call (585) 275-4711

UR Medicine's Treatments for Hemochromatosis

A routine blood test is often all that’s needed for diagnosis. Other possible tests can be used to check:

  • Iron levels
  • Transferrin saturation, to check the percentage of transferrin and other proteins that have too much iron. This test can help detect the disorder early.
  • Ferritin levels. Ferritin, a protein in the blood, increases when iron levels in the body increase.

Other testing measures can include a liver biopsy (checking a small sample of liver tissue or cells under a microscope) and genetic testing, using a blood test to look for the gene changes that cause hereditary hemochromatosis.

Treatments include:

  • Phlebotomy, which removes some blood from your body. This is done regularly at first until iron levels return to normal. Then it can be done once or twice a year as needed.
  • Chelation therapy, using medicine to remove iron from your body.
  • Stopping iron or vitamin C supplements. Vitamin C can increase the amount of iron you absorb.
  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Treatment of hemochromatosis complications, such as diabetes or heart or liver problems.

What Sets Us Apart?

The Center for Liver Disease provides the most advanced and complete services in the area for patients with liver disease. We offer a unique combination: world-class treatments in a center that is highly personal and accessible.

We’re able to see patients rapidly, often the very next day. Our team-based decision-making approach expedites your care while involving doctors from many different disciplines. We’re the only liver transplant center in the region. Our doctors make a practice of following up on patients, often calling them between appointments.

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