Haemochromatosis - iron overload disorder

An overview of haemochromatosis - what it is and how to treat it. 

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Feeling tired all the time, aching joints? You could have haemochromatosis—also known as inherited iron overload disorder. It's common and it's serious, but the good news is it’s easily treated.

It can make your body absorb too much iron from your food. The extra iron can get stored in places where it can cause problems like your liver, your heart and other organs. We're all different. People with haemochromatosis don't all have the same symptoms. In its early stages it often makes people tired all the time. Maybe a bit cranky too. It can also cause other problems: sore joints like the knuckles, knees, ankles, weakness and generally feeling unwell, stomach pains, unexplained weight loss, irregular heartbeat, and heart damage, and… sexual dysfunction. If the iron level gets really high it can cause some very serious problems: diabetes, arthritis, liver damage and cancer. One in two hundred Australians with European ancestry inherit the genes that cause haemochromatosis, or inherited iron overload disorder. People of Celtic origin are at higher risk than people from southern Europe.

Your doctor can arrange a simple blood test.

The good news is that if you are diagnosed before too much iron has built up in your body, you can expect to lead a normal healthy life. Treatment for iron overload is very simple. There are no drugs needed. Giving blood like a blood donation unloads iron. This is called venesection. Blood can often be given at the Australian Red Cross Blood Service and they will use the blood.

If you have the symptoms of haemochromatosis you should see your doctor to be tested. If you know someone in your family has haemochromatosis you should see your doctor and be tested. If you have haemochromatosis you should tell your family so they can be tested too. For more information visit ha.org.au.

Presented by Haemochromatosis Australia, the voluntary support and advocacy group for people with haemochromatosis.

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