Pump that iron!

A colleague of mine is producing and storing too much iron in her body - a condition called hemochromatosis. Her doctor told her that she would have to give a pint of blood each week (indefinitely) to get rid of the excess iron.

There is a certain romanticism to the scenes when Jane Austen's characters are bled, but...seriously? We still do that? It seems a bit primitive to me - isn't there any medicine to treat this condition?

Well, a quick search in MedlinePlus and the CDC revealed that yes, phlebotomy (removal of the blood) is the standard treatment, along with modified diet to prevent any increase in iron levels. WebMD listed another process called chelation therapy, but said phlebotomy is the safer choice. She'll continue to have her ferritin levels monitored - ferritin is the protein in the body that bonds to iron. It's good she detected it early -- once too much iron gets into the organs complications ensue, including the possibilities of cirrhosis, diabetes and heart failure. Yikes!

Since she isn't looking forward to the weekly blood donation, I suggested some alternatives to her to cheer her up. 1) A course of leeches, or 2) a sexy vampire to remove the blood. These suggestions lightened the mood a bit, but in reality, all she can do is bring music or audio books with her to pass the time as pleasantly as possible.

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