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When Too Much of a Good Thing is Bad for You

IRON  OVERLOAD  

When too much of a good thing is a bad thing!

Bluebird Care is supporting National Haemochromatosis Awareness Day which takes place on Thursday 6th June and is organised by the Irish Haemochromotosis Society. 

Founder of the organisation Margaret Mullett is now appealing to members of the public to give on hour on the 6th June to raise awareness of the condition which is life threatening, but needn't be.  They will host awareness stands in shopping centres right across the country.

If you want to help please contact either Kate, kategeog@gmail.com, or Margaret margaretmmullett@gmail.com. Alternatively leave a message on the voicemail 01/8735911 and someone will get back to you.  They will put you in contact with the person who is organising the stand in your local shopping centre.

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What is Haemochromatosis?

We’ve all heard about iron deficiency and anaemia, but it is also possible to have too much iron in your system because of a genetic condition called Haemochromatosis.  You may not have heard about it, you may not know that you have it and you will probably have difficulty pronouncing the word but it could do serious damage if not diagnosed in time.  It is more common in Ireland than in any other country in the world and is known as the Celtic Mutation.  Twenty thousand people have been diagnosed and treated in Ireland in the last five years. There are still thousands out there who have yet to be diagnosed. It could be you!.

Haemochromatosis is a genetic disorder where the body absorbs excessive iron from the diet and this iron is stored in the body.  The accumulated iron affects the liver, heart, pancreas, endocrine glands and joints. This excessive iron burden leads to impaired function of these organs and eventually to disease and organ failure.

What are the symptoms?

Iron builds up slowly so the symptoms may not appear until the age of  30 to 40 years. These symptoms include

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Impotence
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Liver disorders
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Skin pigmentation

In the past people suffering from chronic fatigue were sometimes prescribed iron supplements, whereas in reality they were suffering from extreme tiredness because of an excess of iron.

When diagnosed early, Haemochromatosis responds well to the recommended treatment. This is known as venesection or phlebotomy and involves the removal of a unit of blood. If treated in time the person will have a normal life expectancy.

In the majority of cases the underlying cause of Haemochromatosis is the inheritance of a mutated or faulty gene which stops the body from correctly regulating iron.  It is estimated that one in 86 Irish people are predisposed to iron overload.

A simple blood test to check your iron status can confirm or rule out iron overload. If both the ferritin and the transferrin saturation are raised then a genetic test is also done.

The website of the Irish Haemochromatosis Association is www.haemochromatosis-ir.com and the Voice Mail is (01) 8735911