Hemochromatosis is an iron overload disorder that causes the body to absorb an abundant amount of iron from food. The body then stores this excess iron in organs such as the pancreas, liver, and heart. When the body absorbs too much iron, complications can occur. The hematology physicians at Regional Cancer Care Associates have the tools and knowledge to diagnose and treat iron overload disorders. With more than 20 locations in New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, and the Washington, D.C. area, we can help patients obtain the care they need.
The liver produces hepcidin, a hormone that regulates iron absorption and usage throughout the body. It also controls the storage of extra iron in the organs. Hemochromatosis interferes with how hepcidin disperses iron through the body, causing increased absorption of iron. Many individuals who have hemochromatosis or another iron overload disorder may not receive a diagnosis until later in their lives. This is because, in many cases, the disorder doesn’t cause symptoms until patients are older. However, while the disorder may not damage organs immediately, it can severely affect organs over time. If left untreated, hemochromatosis can cause other diseases, such as heart failure, cirrhosis, or diabetes.
Patients typically inherit hemochromatosis from one or both parents. The condition stems from a genetic mutation that causes changes to hepcidin. Hereditary hemochromatosis is the most common type of iron overload disorder. However, patients can also acquire iron overload disorders due to underlying diseases and conditions.
As noted, many people with hemochromatosis don’t know they have the condition due to a lack of symptoms. For others, however, hemochromatosis can cause debilitating symptoms. Those symptoms may include:
For some women, hemochromatosis can also cause missed periods. In addition, it can lead to the early development of certain neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s.
While hereditary hemochromatosis is the most common iron overload disorder, there are other forms of the condition, including:
Symptoms of hemochromatosis, when present, often mimic those of other health conditions. Because of this, it can be difficult for physicians to make the diagnosis. In some cases, physicians detect the disorder after patients have a blood test for other medical reasons. The blood test will show elevated iron levels, and patients may require further testing. To make a definitive diagnosis, physicians may order one or more tests, including:
If a person is aware that someone in his or her family has hemochromatosis, early testing can help physicians identify the condition and start treatment before complications occur.
The hematology physicians at Regional Cancer Care Associates have extensive experience and considerable expertise in treating iron overload disorders such as hemochromatosis. One of the most effective treatments for iron overload disorders is a process called phlebotomy. This involves the removal of blood to eliminate high iron levels. The process is similar to that of donating blood. At first, patients must receive treatment once or twice a week. However, after treatment successfully reduces iron levels, patients may need phlebotomy only once every couple of months.
Serving patients across New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, and the Washington D.C. area, we can assist those needing treatment for iron overload disorder. To learn more, contact Regional Cancer Care Associates today.
If you need near-term or ongoing care for anemia or another benign blood disorder, schedule an appointment at Regional Cancer Care Associates. Patients have access to a full range of services across New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, and the Washington, DC area, making it easy to find a location convenient for you. Contact us today to learn more about our benign hematology services.
Regional Cancer Care Associates is one of fewer than 200 medical practices in the country selected to participate in the Oncology Care Model (OCM); a recent Medicare initiative aimed at improving care coordination and access to and quality of care for Medicare beneficiaries undergoing chemotherapy treatment.