The health implications of what is Australia’s most common genetic disorder are being brought to awareness during World Haemochromatosis Week from June 3-9.
Even though haemochromatosis is carried by one in seven people and affects one in 200, it is often underdiagnosed because the symptoms of tiredness, muscle weakness and joint pain are generic and non-specific.
The condition is more prevalent in people of Celtic and northern European origin and causes your body to absorb too much iron from food. This excess iron overloads body tissues, damages organs and can cause premature death.
Haemochromatosis Australia spokesman Tony Moorhead said the condition does not need to be a burden if you find out early because it is relatively easy to manage and the treatment (giving blood) provides a benefit to others.
“Australia is a country with a significant migrant population from Irish, English, Scottish, Italian or northern European families so it is important to raise awareness of haemochromatosis to minimise the personal impacts, risk of complications and medical costs,” Mr Moorhead said.
This hereditary condition is estimated to cost Australia’s health system about $280 million annually and add further cost burdens by compounding other chronic conditions when left undiagnosed and untreated.
Recent research in the United Kingdom identified the compounding health implications of haemochromatosis which include increased risk of liver disease, arthritis, diabetes and chronic pain.
This University of Exeter Medical School research will be accelerated through a new $550,000 study into the effects of haemochromatosis on other diseases, such as dementia and diabetes, and exploring why some people are more affected than others.
Australian James Barclay and his wife Anne from Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, are speaking out about the need for early diagnosis to reduce complications since James was diagnosed with cirrhosis and liver cancer at age 54 as a consequence of untreated haemochromatosis.
The Barclays believe we should not dismiss symptoms of tiredness, aches and pains as being caused by gout, ageing or hard work. James and Anne are now proactively managing his health while encouraging others to take a preventive approach.
“The Barclays have an important message to share. Their story and others are available through the Haemochromatosis Australia’s Iron out your health awareness campaign. We encourage everyone to ask their doctor for a blood test to learn about their risk,” Mr Moorhead said.
To find out if you might be rusting from within and need to iron out your health, you can visit the website ha.org.au view the awareness campaign videos here follow social media channels or call the help line on 1300 019 028.
• Haemochromatosis is the most common genetic disorder in Australia
• If you are the 1 in 200 affected, it can cause serious health problems
• Ask your doctor, find out if you are storing too much iron
Support and advocacy group for people affected by haemochromatosis.
University of Sydney
Lecturer and researcher.
M: 0422 074 503