That is one of the key questions that will be asked during Haemochromatosis Awareness Week when it is launched from Wollongong this week. The highlight will be the opening of ‘Overload NSW’ Art Exhibition, curated by local artist Anthony Marshall.
Anthony’s inspiration came after hearing of the initial Overload art show held in Hobart, 4 years ago, and every year since. Anthony has suffered significant long-term medical problems as a result of late diagnosis of haemochromatosis and is passionate about raising awareness in his local community. Approximately 1 in 200 Australians are at genetic risk of developing iron overload or hereditary haemochromatosis, and Anthony says that very few people he knows have even heard of the condition.
Hereditary haemochromatosis is an iron overload disorder that causes the body to absorb excess dietary iron. This builds up in organs and the joints over many years, eventually becoming toxic. If untreated it can lead to more serious conditions including osteoarthritis, liver cirrhosis and heart failure.
Anthony says “This is something I can contribute. Use my skills and talents to raise awareness of this condition so people will realise it is more common than they think. There is a simple test if there is any suspicion of iron overload and a good future when it is detected, monitored and treated in time.” Treatment is simple, drug-free and effective. Regular venesection, like giving blood at the blood bank, unloads iron. Often this can be done with the Red Cross Donor Service and the blood is useful.
“It’s fantastic to see so many wonderful artists willing to participate and help out too” says Anthony, who is looking forward to meeting other people with haemochromatosis over the weekend. Participating artists have previously submitted works to the Archibald Prize competition, and include well-known artists Paul Ryan, Anh Do and Jennifer Jackson.
‘Overload NSW’ opens at 7pm on August 8 at Project Contemporary Artspace, 255 Keira St, Wollongong www.ha.org.au/overloadnsw
The exhibition is timely as Haemochromatosis Awareness Week is observed from 10 - 16 August this year. The week is a time to focus national attention on the condition to raise awareness in the community and alert those at risk of iron overload that they should talk to their GP about their health.
For more information about haemochromatosis call 1300 019 028 or go to http://haemochromatosis.org.au/meetings/ for details about the public information meeting in Corrimal at 2.00pm on Saturday 8 August.
Haemochromatosis, or inherited iron overload disorder, is the most common genetic disorder in Australia. It causes the body to absorb excess iron which builds up in the organs and joints over many years and eventually becomes toxic.
Early symptoms include joint pains, fatigue, weakness and sexual dysfunction.
If untreated it can lead to serious and potentially fatal symptoms including diabetes, liver cancer and cirrhosis, heart failure and osteoarthritis.
Despite being so common (one in 200 have the genetic pre-disposition) it is not well known and is frequently overlooked. Often only the individual symptoms are treated and the underlying cause is not recognised.
Tests for the condition are simple and cheap.
If people are diagnosed early and treated then haemochromatosis is no barrier to a normal healthy life.
Treatment is simple, drug free and uncontroversial. Regular venesection, like giving blood at a blood bank, unloads iron. Often this can be done at the Red Cross Blood Service and the blood is useful.
Haemochromatosis Australia is the not-for-profit support, health promotion and advocacy group for people with haemochromatosis and their families.
Approximately 1400 members across Australia.