Hemochromatosis is a genetically inherited disease in which the body absorbs and stores too much iron, creating an iron overload. Iron builds up in the organs, especially the liver, and over time elevated ferritin levels can cause these organs to fail. Symptoms are rare, even in advanced cases, but when they occur they include joint pain, fatigue, abdominal pain and loss of sex drive. If hemochromatosis goes untreated, it can lead to liver disease, arthritis, diabetes, heart problems, pituitary and adrenal gland damage, and premature menopause in women.
Treatment for hemochromatosis is safe and inexpensive. The body is rid of excess iron through phlebotomy, a process of removing blood the same way it is done in blood donation. Typically, a pint of blood will be taken once or twice a week until iron levels are within the normal range. This can take several months to a year. Once iron levels are back to normal, the person will switch to maintenance therapy, which means giving a pint of blood every few months for the rest of his or her life. An annual blood test to measure iron levels is also standard.
To find a location near you to donate blood and save a life:
- Go to www.givelife.org.
- Search a Blood Drive Near You by entering your zip code, or enter sponsor code ‘EMORY’ to find an Emory location.
- Choose a location where you would like to donate blood, and click to Schedule an Appointment.
- You will be asked to Login to continue with scheduling a time.