I recently posted a question on the "question" section asking if there were people out there with haemochromatosis and after three days, I had no answers, so I asked a supplementary question - who had heard of it. I then realised that the chances of people reading that were remote once their mental answer was "No" so I decided to write this blog entry. as well.
To bring you up to date, then, haemochromatosis is a genetic disorder which prevents the body from using the iron taken in with food. The consequence is that iron is stored in major organs, including the liver, and can cause an array of symptoms often thought typical of ageing, including:
heart problems (arrythmias etc)
arthritis, including need for hip and knee replacement
bronze or grey discolouration
While these conditions can arise independently, they can also combine as a consequence of haemochrmoatosis and if you are identified as having one or more of the above, it might be worth asking for a test of your ferritin level - this is the measure of iron in the blood. Normal range is 12-300 ng/ML for males and 12-150 ng/ML for females. Once identified, treatment is simple - weekly venasection (like blood donation) until levels return to normal.
What can happen?
When I was 53 I was diagnosed with hypertension and shortly after that, diabetes mellitus. Around that time, I was proudly displaying my sun tan (which always seem to last quite some time after a holiday). Three years later, I had a hip replacement and some time after that, a GI bleed, which led to a diagnosis of cirrhosis. In 2011 I was diagnosed with liver cancer and had a transplant in December that year. My diagnosis of haemochromatosis was made in 2005 but I think it took everyone a while to add the conditions together and lay at least some of the blame for my condition on my genetic inheritance.
So, if you have more than one of the above, ask for the test. If you are positive, treatment is quick, (almost) painless and can avoid more serious consequences down the line. Left untreated, it can lead to killing diseases. A positive test will also be a signal to your siblings and children to have a test also.
For more information, you might want to contact the Haemochromotosis Society, a national charity supporting sufferers. It supports regional groups dotted around the UK and these meet for support and encouragement. Contact
for more information and local group contacts.
If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask.