There's currently no cure for haemochromatosis, but there are treatments thatcan reduce the amount of iron in your body.

Thiscan helprelieve some of the symptomsand reduce the risk of damage to organs such as the heart, liver and pancreas.

The main treatments and things you can do are outlined below.


The most commonly used treatment for haemochromatosis is a procedure to remove some of your blood, known as a phlebotomy or venesection.

The procedure is similar to giving blood. You lie back in a chair and a needle is used to drain a small amount of blood usually about 500ml, or just less than a pint from a vein in your arm.

The removed blood includes red blood cells that contain iron, and your body will use up more iron to replace them, helping to reduce the amount of iron in your body.

There are two main stages to treatment:

  • induction blood is removed on a frequent basis (usually weekly) until your iron levels are normal; this can sometimes take up to a year or more
  • maintenance blood is removed less often(usually every twoor threemonths) to keep your iron levels under control; thisis usually needed for the rest of your life

Chelation therapy

A treatment called chelation therapy may be used in a small number of cases where regular phlebotomies aren't possible because it's difficult to remove blood regularly for example, if you have very thin or fragile veins.

This involves taking medication that removes iron from your blood and releases it into your urine or poo.

A commonly used medication is deferasirox. It comes as a tablet that's usually taken once a day.

It's unlicensed for the treatment of haemochromatosis, which means it hasn't undergone extensive Research and clinical trials for this use. But your doctor may recommend it if they feel the possible benefits outweigh any risks.

Diet and alcohol

Youdon't need to make any big changes to your diet, such as avoiding all foods containing iron, if you have haemochromatosis.

This is unlikely to be of much extra help if you're having one of the treatments above, and could mean you don't get all the nutrition you need.

You'll usually be advised to:

  • have a generally healthy, balanced diet
  • avoid breakfast cereals that have been "fortified" with extra iron
  • avoid taking iron and vitamin C supplementsthese may be harmful for people with high iron levels
  • be careful not to eat raw oysters and clams these may contain atype of bacteriathat can cause serious infections in people with high iron levels
  • avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol this can increase the level of iron in your body and put extra strain on your liver
Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 8 Nov 2016