Message from Tony Clement, Minister of Health

Posted May 31st, 2008 by webadmin

Hemochromatosis is the most common genetic disorder affecting Canadians today. Caused by a defect of iron metabolism, those affected may retain excess iron in vital organs, joints and tissues. This has serious health consequences for those affected. During the month of May, I encourage Canadians to learn about this little-known genetic disorder. The goal this year is to identify 1,000 at-risk families. One in every 300 Canadians is at risk for Hemochromatosis and one in nine in the general population are carriers of one of the gene mutations. Iron is essential to maintain human health. It carries oxygen to cells. A deficiency in iron can result in fatigue, poor work performance, and decreased immunity. On the other hand, excess amounts of iron can result in toxicity and even death. Some symptoms of Hemochromatosis are chronic fatigue, joint pain and arthritis, bronzing or greying of the skin, loss of libido, thyroid problems, elevated glucose and triglyceride levels, enlarged liver and cirrhosis and irregular heartbeat. Complications caused by iron storage can include diabetes mellitus, hepatic dysfunction, arthritis, skin pigmentation changes and congestive heart failure. Hemochromatosis is the only inheritable disorder in which all the complications are preventable by early diagnosis and treatment. A simple blood test by your health professional can be ordered to diagnose this disorder and effective treatment is also readily available. Hemochromatosis can also be acquired by patients affected by other chronic diseases who routinely receive repeated blood transfusions, as this can lead to an overload of iron. However, Canada is one of the few nations with a federally coordinated blood transfusion surveillance program and is recognized internationally as a leader in hemo-vigilance. I would like to thank the Canadian Hemochromatosis Society for creating awareness about this little-known, but common disorder, and for providing information and support to those adversely affected by iron overload. Tony Clement Minister of Health Government of Canada