Varadkar launches Haemochromatosis Awareness Day

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Iron overload – too much of a good thing!

Minister Leo Varadkar launches National Haemochromatosis Awareness Day Friday 29th May.
A campaign to reduce the numbers of people suffering unnecessarily from Haemochromatosis was launched today by the Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar T.D., at Farmleigh House, Castleknock, Dublin 15. Also at the launch were people who suffer from Haemochromatosis and Professor Suzanne Norris, Consultant in Hepatology and Gastroenterology at St James’s Hospital.

Known as the ‘Celtic Mutation’, Ireland has the highest levels of the condition in the world.

Speaking at the launch, Minister Varadkar said: “Haemochromatosis is the most common hereditary disease in this country so it should be better known. Early diagnosis is key and a simple blood test to check a person’s iron status can identify iron overload. Early treatment can prevent organ damage, and treatment can bring about some improvement. That’s why it’s so important to raise awareness of the condition and I really welcome this campaign.”

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Haemochromatosis is a genetic disorder where the body absorbs excessive iron from the diet and stores it in the body. The IHA is encouraging people who are suffering from symptoms such as chronic fatigue, joint pain, diabetes, irregular heartbeat, enlarged liver and loss of sex drive to consult their GP.

A simple blood test to check your iron status can confirm or rule out iron overload. The accumulated iron affects the liver, heart, pancreas, endocrine glands and joints, leading to impaired function of these organs and eventually to disease and organ failure. As many as one in 83 Irish people are predisposed to iron overload while one in five are carriers of the gene.

The treatment is simple and effective. It is known as venesection or phlebotomy. This involves the removal of a unit of blood and is similar to blood donation.

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Professor Suzanne Norris, Consultant in Hepatology and Gastroenterology at St James’s Hospital has said that ‘Ill -health from Haemochromatosis and the development of serious complications such as cirrhosis can be prevented by simple treatment. Life expectancy in treated non-cirrhotic patients is normal.

Early diagnosis is therefore critical and Haemochromatosis is an ideal condition to consider for population screening in Ireland’

The National Awareness Day is next Thursday 4th June and there will be information stands 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.

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