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Hereditary haemochromatosis is a genetic disorder where the body absorbs excessive iron from the diet and stores it in the body (iron overload). Most people do not feel unwell during the early stages of the condition and cannot tell if they have the disease. Sometimes people can feel common symptoms such as fatigue and aching joints. However, overtime, iron gradually builds up in organs causing permanent damage. This can be prevented by the early diagnosis and treatment of the disease.
Ireland is particularly affected, with rates of the condition higher among our population than in other countries. As many as one in 83 Irish people are predisposed to iron overload while one in five are carriers of the gene.
Dr Colm Henry, the HSE’s Clinical Lead for Acute Hospitals, said today: ‘We are delighted to add our voice to the IHA’s promotion of public knowledge about this condition. In addition to the IHA’s detailed website and information leaflets, the HSE has also set up a dedicated section on our own website – at www.hse.ie/haemochromatosis. A HSE multidisciplinary working group is developing a Model of Care for patients with hereditary jaemochromatosis, which is listening to the concerns of the members of the IHA. This model of care will outline the diagnosis, management and treatment of patients with hereditary haemochromatosis.’
The HSE is encouraging people who experience symptoms such as chronic fatigue, joint pain, diabetes, irregular heartbeat, enlarged liver and loss of sex drive, or who have diabetes, to consult their GP for advice and testing.
A simple blood test to check your iron status can confirm or rule out iron overload. If not treated, the accumulated iron can affect the liver, heart, pancreas, endocrine glands and joints, leading to impaired function of these organs and eventually to disease and organ failure. The treatment is simple and effective. It involves the removal of blood and is similar to blood donation.
Today’s National Awareness Day will see information stands provided by the Irish Haemochromatosis Association in a number of shopping centres and hospitals throughout the country. The full list of venues can be viewed on www.haemochromatosis-ir.com.
If you have any concerns about the condition please call the Irish Haemochromatosis Association support group on 01-8735911, or talk to your family doctor.