Do you have haemochromatosis?

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Are you tired all the time? Do you have aching joints? Pains in your tummy after eating?

You may have haemochromatosis.

Haemochromatosis is Australia’s most common genetic disorder. It is easily managed but can have dire consequences if left untreated. The condition causes your body to absorb too much iron – up to four times the amount that is considered normal.

Over time, the accumulated iron can cause damage to joints, organs and other parts of the body, and even lead to premature death.

Fatigue is a common symptom. This occurs because the build-up of iron affects the brain’s capacity to regulate sleep. You may have trouble going to sleep at night and find it especially difficult to get up in the morning. Long-term sleep issues can then lead to other health problems.

Muscle weakness is also a common side effect. The oversupply of iron in the blood damages muscles and this can be irreversible if the condition is not treated. Sufferers might have trouble walking up stairs or carrying a heavy bag of groceries.

One of the most debilitating symptoms, according to WebMD, is abdominal pain, usually in the upper abdomen and especially after eating. A warm wheat bag may help while the condition is being managed.

The build-up of iron can also affect the organs, especially the pancreas and liver. The pancreas regulates blood sugar levels and if it is unable to function properly, diabetes can develop. The liver removes chemicals and toxins from the blood. When liver function becomes impaired, the consequences can be deadly, WebMD reports.

Other conditions that can develop include: erectile dysfunction, because the brain is no longer able to send signals to the muscles that allow for blood flow into the penis; arrhythmia, or the irregular beating of the heart, and heart failure, if arrhythmia becomes severe.

But the good news is that haemochromatosis is usually easily managed. Haemochromatosis Australia says that an easy and simple treatment involves venesection, which is, in effect, a regular blood donation at blood banks to lower your iron levels – and help other Australians.

Haemochromatosis Australia says: “Up to 500ml of blood is removed at regular intervals until the iron levels in the blood return to within the normal range. This can take up to 18 months, with weekly or sometimes twice-weekly venesections, depending on the original iron levels of the patient.

“Once normal levels of iron are re-established, venesections are used less frequently (three or four times a year) to maintain those levels throughout the patient’s lifetime.”

Do you have haemochromatosis? Have you been able to manage the condition? Was it difficult to get a diagnosis?

Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

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Written by Liv Gardiner


Total Comments: 9
  1. 0

    So thats why the fridge magnets stick to me every time I go in the kitchen.

  2. 0

    Thank you for this article, I learnt a few things I hadn’t been told before which explained a few things for me. There are a lot of people with this condition apparently so please everybody if you are having a blood test ask for your iron levels to be checked. It can cause unnecessary death.

  3. 0

    I had haemochromatosis all my life, multitude Blood Test None for Iron Levels or haemochromatosis.
    Even though there Where Indicators on the Blood Test, but the Doctors Choose Not To Do A Test for Iron Levels or haemochromatosis.
    I had Cancer Years Back with all the Blood Tests None For Iron Levels. Told to Eat Iron Base Foods, Blood Test Request for Iron Levels would have indicated My Levels Were Way to High.(1900 and 65% saturation)
    Other patients suffered badly from Treatment I didn’t have the same Reaction.
    I was only Diagnosed 12 months ago with the Full Mutant Condition.(I’m seeing a new Doctor that requested All the Tests to prove haemochromatosis.
    I had 18 venesections since and Iron Levels are below 600.
    You can rely on doctors for ability to diagnose conditions, when requesting Blood Tests it wouldn’t be that had to add Iron Level Tests.

  4. 0

    I supposedly do have it, will have to have more tests to confirm, though. It might explain some weird health problems, though.

  5. 0

    I’m so sorry to hear of your history. I have been very lucky but I don’t know how long Drs have known about the condition. When I was diagnosed about 12 years ago now the dr said he had been surprised at how many of his patients he had discovered had it. My grandson has it now, we have recently discovered. I think it should be a test that everybody has because for males it’s critical that it is found as early as,possible.

  6. 0

    Blood bank doesn’t want my blood because I had hepatitis type 1 more than 60 years ago.

  7. 0

    Yes I have Haemochromatosis; I was diagnosed 19-years ago after an uncle was diagnosed with it. It’s much easier getting a Doctor to listen once they know it’s in the family. We have English, Irish & Scottish ancestors – so it’s prevalent in both my mother’s and my father’s sides of the family.

    Have been giving blood on & off for most of that time and it is pretty easy to manage. I see it as a win-win situation – I get my iron levels reduced 4-times a year and the Red Cross get my iron-rich blood to use.



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