How is hemochromatosis treated?
Hemochromatosis is treated over a period of years by removing red blood cells which contain iron, through a procedure called therapeutic phlebotomy. Red cells are removed until the excess iron stores are reduced.
How often can a hemochromatosis donor give blood?
Normally, donors are not permitted to give blood more than every 56 days to prevent iron deficiency and anemia. However, the iron overload that characterizes hemochromatosis prevents them from becoming anemic, even when their blood is drawn more often. Because of this, they will be allowed to donate more frequently than every 56 days, as their condition allows.
Are donations from hemochromatosis donors used for transfusions?
Hemochromatosis patients were previously not considered volunteer donors as required by the Blood Center and FDA, because of concerns their donation might be motivated by a desire to avoid paying therapeutic phlebotomy fees. Guidance issued by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) changed the eligibility criteria for blood donation by these patients. This guidance allows donors with hemochromatosis to donate under the same circumstances as any other volunteer blood donors, except that they will be permitted to donate more frequently than 56 days.
If hemochromatosis is a blood disease, how can this blood be safe for transfusions? Hemochromatosis is hereditary, not an infection, so it cannot be passed on through a transfusion. In addition, hemochromatosis donors must meet all the donor eligibility and testing requirements that assure blood safety. When these requirements are met, their blood is medically safe and acceptable and will be released for transfusions. If their donation fails to meet the safety and quality standards required of all donations, the blood will not be used and, when appropriate, the hemochromatosis donor will be notified.
Why would anyone be concerned about classifying a donor as a volunteer?
Volunteer donors are one of the most important safeguards for the blood supply, because they donate for the sole reason of helping others. There is no doubt about the truthfulness of their responses to screening questions which assess high-risk behaviors associated with blood-born diseases like hepatitis and HIV. If a donor is motivated by an incentive, the safety of the blood supply might be compromised.
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