As of January 2007, Community Blood Services began accepting individuals diagnosed with Hereditary Hemochromatosis as volunteer blood donors. This is a result of new guidelines issued by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Community Blood Services has received approval from the FDA and New Jersey Department of Health to test and process these donations and in many cases use the blood for patients in need. Individuals with Hemochromatosis can now choose to help save lives by becoming volunteer blood donors at the same time they are undergoing treatment. It is very safe to transfuse these blood products to patients in need.
Hereditary Hemochromatosis is a common genetic disorder that causes the body to absorb too much iron. It affects an estimated one in 200 individuals in this country. If untreated, the abnormal absorption leads to high levels of iron in the body, which can cause heart and liver disease, diabetes, arthritis and other problems. The condition is treated by removing red blood cells which contain iron through a procedure called therapeutic phlebotomy. The frequency with which the blood is removed from the body is determined on a case-by-case basis.
Thanks to this change in policy Community Blood Services will be able to provide a service needed by individuals with Hemochromatosis and at the same time increase its blood supply for patients in need of blood.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Hereditary Hemochromatosis?
Individuals with Hereditary Hemochromatosis absorb too much iron. This can result in toxic levels of iron in tissues and major organs. A genetic disease, it can develop into other major diseases such as diabetes, heart trouble, arthritis, liver disease and neurological problems if not diagnosed and treated. Symptoms include chronic fatigue, joint pain, loss of libido or impotence, abdominal pain and shortness of breath.
Who is at risk for Hereditary Hemochromatosis?
It is estimated that 1 in 200 people has the disease or is a carrier for it. Males of northern European descent, those with a family history of premature death from heart attack, liver disease, diabetes and arthritis; and post-menopausal women with the same ancestry and family history as previously mentioned.
What is the treatment?
The amount of iron in the body can be decreased effectively by removing red blood cells that naturally contain large amounts of iron. Those with Hereditary Hemochromatosis often need regular phlebotomies to remove the excess iron. In the past, this was often done at a doctorís office or blood center and the collected blood was then discarded. But because of a change in the guidelines by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Community Blood Services now can test and process these donations and many times use the blood for patients in need.
Why can individuals with Hemochromatosis now be blood donors?
Community Blood Services has received approval from the FDA and NJ DOH to begin collecting blood from those diagnosed with Hereditary Hemochromatosis. The FDA is allowing us to make those units that meet all eligibility requirements available for transfusion to patients in need as long as the results of all required tests are negative. If suitability requirements are not met, the blood will be safely destroyed.
How often will someone with Hemochromatosis be able to donate?
The frequency of donations should be determined by the individualís physician based on the individualís iron level and medical status.
Is an appointment needed?
An appointment is not necessary provided you have a Community Blood Services Physicianís Request for Plebotomy Form, which can be found on this website, or a doctorís prescription.
What is the process for donating?
Upon registration, always identify yourself as a Hereditary Hemochromatosis donor. A donor with Hemochromatosis should plan to spend about an hour at the donor center. A health-care professional will ask the individual to fill out a registration form with medical history questions and check the donorís pulse, blood pressure and iron level. The actual donation will take about 30 minutes. Then the individual will rest for a few minutes and have juice and a snack.
Can Hereditary Hemochromatosis be transmitted via blood?
Hereditary Hemochromatosis cannot be transmitted by a blood donation because it is a genetic disorder and therefore not contagious. The blood donated by individuals with Hemochromatosis is as safe as that donated by those without Hemochromatosis.
Is there a charge?
There is no charge, even if the blood you donate is not used for transfusion.
What if I have additional questions?
Please Call the at 201-444-3900, Monday - Friday, 7:30am - 3:30pm, and ask for the Special Clinical Services Department.
Why is donating at Community Blood Services a win-win situation?
In the past, blood collected from Hemochromatosis patients was collected and destroyed. As a result of the new regulations we cannot only help the patient with this disease by offering regular phlebotomies to decrease the amount of iron in their bodies, they can feel good about their blood saving anotherís life.
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