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Haemochromatosis Awareness Day

7th June 2018

Is the world pumping too much iron?

Today is National Haemochromatosis Awareness Day, and the HSE is supporting the Irish Haemochromatosis Association to raise awareness of this genetic condition, which is particularly prevalent in Ireland.

New research and new guidelines recommend early diagnosis and treatment for one of the world’s most common genetic conditions.

Iron overload or haemochromatosis, is a serious condition in which too much iron is absorbed and stored in the body. It can cause liver cirrhosis, liver cancer, arthritis, diabetes and general fatigue.

World Haemochromatosis Week, which is from June 4th-10th, aims to strengthen awareness of iron overload as early diagnosis will result in better health outcomes for individuals as well as huge savings for a country’s health care system[1].

About one in 200 people of European origin have the genetic predisposition for haemochromatosis.

According to Margaret Mullett of the Irish Haemochromatosis Association, 1 in 83 Irish people are predisposed to iron overload.

Haemochromatosis groups worldwide, including the Irish Haemochromatosis Association, have joined forces to raise awareness and improve the rate of early diagnosis of this prevalent but all too often overlooked condition.

“Haemochromatosis is under-diagnosed, partly because public awareness of the condition is low but also because its symptoms, including fatigue, depression and joint pain, are confused with a range of other illnesses. “When undetected and untreated, iron overload can result in premature death,” said Professor Suzanne Norris, Consultant Hepatologist, St James’s Hospital, Dublin    

Although haemochromatosis is detected by simple blood tests, support groups around the world continue to hear familiar stories from people with significant health problems caused by a late diagnosis.

The tragedy is that so many people suffer harm unnecessarily when timely management of their condition is simple, safe and effective. Haemochromatosis can easily be managed through blood donations which remove iron from the body and a diagnosis of haemochromatosis should be no barrier to a normal life.  Joining together world-wide to raise awareness of the condition should help prevent harm from haemochromatosis. 

Last updated on: 07 / 06 / 2018