Genetic blood condition most common in Ireland

Haemochromatosis is known as iron overload
  • Deborah Condon

The genetic condition, haemochromatosis, is more common in Ireland than anywhere else in the world, the Irish Haemochromatosis Association (IHA) has warned.

It has just launched the inaugural Iron Games 2019, to raise awareness of the condition and much needed funds.

Haemochromatosis is a hereditary condition in which excessive amounts of iron are absorbed from the diet. This iron is deposited in various organs, including the liver, pancreas and heart, as well as the joints.

Early diagnosis is vital as without treatment, the condition can cause premature death.

Since iron builds up slowly, symptoms may not appear until a person is in their 30s or 40s. Symptoms can include unexplained fatigue, arthritis particularly in the first and second knuckles and/or ankles, diabetes, liver disorders and discolouration and/or bronzing of the skin.

Treatment is venesection, which means the removal of blood. It is just like giving a blood donation. How often you will need to undergo venesection will depend on how far advanced your condition is.

Treatment is most effective when begun early as it can successfully prevent organ damage. If damage has already occurred, treatment should halt any further damage and in most cases, bring about some improvement.

"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," commented Prof Suzanne Norris, a consultant in hepatology and gastroenterology at St James's Hospital in Dublin.

The inaugural Iron Games will bring together well known construction companies to compete for the perpetual Iron Games Cup in Gaelic football in Croke Park on September 20 and in the Iron Games Golf Tournament at the K Club on September 27.

The two tournaments will raise vital funds for the IHA, a charity that has been working for over 20 years to increase awareness of haemochromatosis.

The IHA encourages people who are suffering from symptoms such as chronic fatigue, joint pain, diabetes, irregular heartbeat and an enlarged liver to consult their GP.

A simple blood test can determine if a person is affected.

"Early diagnosis of haemochromatosis is crucial as it is more common in Ireland than anywhere in the world. It is essential that we do all in our power to ensure that no Irish person goes undiagnosed or is left untreated," commented IHA chairperson, Margaret Mullett.

For more information on haemochromatosis and the IHA, click here.

If you would like to volunteer to help out with the Iron Games in Croke Park on September 20, click here.


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