People With Iron Loaded Blood Can Donate Blood

There is such a thing as an Iron overload,this is a chronic disease that occurs when the body absorbs too much iron.  This is a serious sickness because excess iron builds up in the heart and liver tissues. This is a result of a gene mutation that causes the body to take in more than a healthy amount of iron. Iron overload has a name too, hemochromatosis.

But what is this disease and what can patients do to stay healthy and be of help in the community? Iron overload is considered a silent killer as a lot of Americans live their lives not knowing they have the deadly gene. 1 in 250 Americans have Hemochromatosis, they are the ones who have been diagnosed. With studies showing that millions of Americans have the gene, not all hit with the disease even know it.

What is hemochromatosis?
Hemochromatosis is the abnormal rate of iron metabolism in the blood. Normally, your body only absorbs 10% of the iron contained in the foods they eat. With hemochromatosis, your body absorbs up to 30% of iron and eventually, it absorbs and preserves between 5-20 times more iron than your body needs.

Having too much iron in the body is not good for the health. Our body has no natural way of eliminating excess iron, it is stored in body tissue and organs, particularly in the heart, liver, pancreas, skin and joints. Without treatment, hemochromatosis leads to organ failure, or worse, death.

Symptoms
Doctors may not think to test for Hemochromatosis because this is a rare condition and the symptoms usually attributed to other common ailments. Symptoms include lack of energy, fatigue, abdominal pain, heart problems and loss of sex drive. Though there are cases that there are no symptoms when patients are diagnosed.

If the disease is not detected at an early stage, iron may compile in body tissues and can result to serious problems in the long run such as:

  • arthritis
  • liver disease (including liver failure, enlarged liver, cancer and cirrhosis)
  • damage to the pancreas
  • early menopause
  • impotence
  • heart abnormalities (including irregular heart rhythms or congestive heart failure)
  • thyroid deficiency
  • damage to the adrenal glands

One reason why people do not know they have is because the symptoms manifest later in life. Men are likely diagnosed at around ages 50 to 60 years old while women are likely to be diagnosed at the age of 60 . Women experience these symptoms much later than men, usually after menopause when they don’t have their monthlies anymore.

"Infograph about Hemochromatosis"

Hemochromatosis: Symptoms and What to avoid

Treatment
For those who have hemochromatosis, it is not the end of the world for you. This disease can be treated successfully through phlebotomy, a process in which blood is removed to decrease the amount of iron in the body. It is completely safe and has the same steps in donating blood: a medical practitioner takes about a pint of blood from you and the whole thing takes about an hour.

Early treatment is the best way to prevent any severe health problems. Make sure you see a phlebotomist before too much iron has accumulated in the body because it can keep you from developing serious organ damage and you are likely to live a normal life.

Here are a few reminders about what you must do when undergoing treatment:

  • Drink a lot of water, fruit juices or milk before and after the treatment.
  • Refrain from exhausting physical activity for 24 hours after the treatment
  • Make sure you show up on your phlebotomy appointments as told by your doctor.

The frequency of your phlebotomy session depends on how much iron has stored in your body. Most patients have phlebotomy once or twice a week for a year or more, but if your iron has decreased to a safe level, you will have sessions only for few times a year. You can have treatment at blood donation centers such as hospitals, clinics and bloodmobiles.

Patients must attend to their treatments regularly but you must know that they cannot cure the conditions with hemochromatosis. Treatments can only help improve the patient’s quality of life, except for those with arthritis because it does not get better even after excess iron is taken from the body.

Can patients donate blood?
Since hemochromatosis patients have more iron in the body than regular people have, it is inevitable to perceive them as unhealthy and are ineligible of blood donation. But that is a misconception. Hemochromatosis is not a blood disease. The FDA has always allowed people diagnosed with this condition to give blood, provided that blood banks label such blood with the donor’s disorder and have a physician check up the donor at the time of the donation.

That’s great news, isn’t it? Hemochromatosis patients can donate blood and they can help other patients who have blood disorder. Although hemochromatosis is a condition that can be fatal if not treated accordingly, their excessive iron supply in the body is what makes them to be someone’s hero. It’s like hitting two birds with one stone: they remove blood from themselves to stay healthy and they can help save lives as well.

Advantages of hemochromatosis blood donors:

  • They give blood many times than the average citizen, especially in the early stages of treatment.
  • Their blood is safe to use.
  • Since they have phlebotomy once to twice every week, they can contribute greatly to the nation’s blood supply.

While there people who depend on blood transfusions to survive, there are also patients who rely on having their blood removed to stay healthy. With this fact at hand, isn’t it a wonder how we live in a world of mutualism?

Now that you have an idea about hemochromatosis, please help share this info with your family and friends that it is not a transmittable disease and patients play a big role in contributing to the country’s blood supply.

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One thought on “People With Iron Loaded Blood Can Donate Blood

  1. My local blood bank said that while they will draw the blood, they will only use the blood that is taken in the 8 week cycle. Blood that is drawn before that period will be discarded.

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