Having not enough iron in your system (anaemia) is a common problem, especially for women, but some people have the opposite problem. Haemochromatosis is an inherited condition that affects one in 200 Australians. It leads people to retain too much iron in the bloodstream.
The Celtic curse
People of Celtic and Viking descent are particularly prone to this condition, which often doesn’t cause obvious symptoms until the age of 30 or 40. It may manifest as fatigue, joint pain, diabetes, enlarged liver, irregular heartbeat or loss of libido.
If left undetected and untreated, haemochromatosis can cause organ and tissue damage, even premature death in severe cases.
The good news is that your GP can test for the condition, and early detection can completely prevent negative complications.
Haemochromatosis can be easily managed with regular blood donations, saving other people’s lives in the process. Win win!
Once you have a diagnosis, Australian Red Cross Lifeblood (formerly the Australian Red Cross Blood Service) will be very happy to help organise regular donations. There’s even a special Haemochromatosis Lifeblood Team.
Apart from giving blood regularly, people with haemochromatosis should avoid red meat, foods fortified with iron and supplements with large amounts of Vitamin C, which increase iron consumption. Iron cookware should also be avoided.
Find out more
You can learn more about this inherited iron overload disorder at the Haemochromatosis Australia website.
There’s even an app to help people manage the condition, called My Iron Manager. It’s available for iPhone and Android.