World Haemochromatosis Week: Do you know about haemochromatosis?

Posted June 4th, 2019 by Canadian Hemochromatosis Society

The health implications of what is one of the most common genetic disorders are being brought to awareness during World Haemochromatosis Week from June 3-9.

Even though haemochromatosis (the English spelling for hemochromatosis outside of Canada and the US) is carried by about one in nine people and affects approximately one in 300 Canadians, it is often underdiagnosed because the symptoms of tiredness, muscle weakness and joint pain, are generic and non-specific.

The condition is more prevalent in people of Celtic and northern European origin and causes your body to absorb too much iron from food. This excess iron overloads body tissues, damages organs and can cause premature death.

The condition does not need to be a burden if you find out early because it is relatively easy to manage and the treatment, bloodletting, can provide a benefit to others when the patient can donate the blood at Canadian Blood Services or Héma-Québec in Québec.

“People of Northern European origin are more likely to inherit the condition so it is important to raise awareness of haemochromatosis to minimise the personal impacts, risk of complications and medical costs,” Ray Fynes, president of the Canadian Hemochromatosis Society said.

Recent research in the United Kingdom identified the compounding health implications of haemochromatosis which include increased risk of liver disease, arthritis, diabetes and chronic pain.

This University of Exeter Medical School research will be accelerated through a new £291,000 study into the effects of haemochromatosis on other diseases, such as dementia and diabetes, and exploring why some people are more affected than others.

Across the globe in Australia, James Barclay is of Celtic origin and he and his wife Anne are speaking out about the need for early diagnosis to reduce complications since James was diagnosed with cirrhosis and liver cancer at age 54 as a consequence of untreated haemochromatosis.

The Barclays believe we should not dismiss symptoms of tiredness, aches and pains as being caused by gout, ageing or hard work. James and Anne are now proactively managing his health while encouraging others to take a preventive approach.

Here in Canada, Drew Broadfoot shares his story with us on the Canadian Hemochromatosis Society’s website. For five years, Drew exhibited some of the more common symptoms for hemochromatosis, such as joint pain, fatigue and elevated liver enzymes before his diagnosis. Fortunately in Drew’s case, testing has shown no permanent liver damage. “I hope my story helps prevent any disease in your future that would have been caused by undetected hemochromatosis,” said Drew.

“The Barclays and Drew Broadfoot have an important message to share. We encourage anyone exhibiting symptoms of hemochromatosis to ask their doctor for a blood test to learn about their risk,” said Ray Fynes.

To find out if you might be rusting from within and need to iron out your health, you can visit the website for more information.

Key points:

  • Haemochromatosis/Hemochromatosis is a common genetic disorder
  • If you inherit the condition and leave it untreated, it can cause serious health problems
  • Ask your doctor if you are storing too much iron