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Do you know about haemochromatosis?

The health implications of one of the most common genetic disorders are being brought to attention for World Haemochromatosis Week June 3-9.

Haemochromatosis is carried by about one in seven people. The disorder is often under diagnosed because symptoms are generic and non-specific, such as tiredness, muscle weakness and joint pain.

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.

Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand CEO Peter Fergusson, says 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.

"People of Northern European origin are more likely to inherit the condition so it is important to raise awareness of haemochromatosis to minimise the personal impacts, risk of complications and medical costs," says Peter.

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 £291,000 study into the effects of haemochromatosis on other diseases, such as dementia and diabetes, and exploring why some people are more affected than others.

James Barclay is of Celtic origin and he and his wife Anne 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. We encourage everyone to ask their doctor for a blood test to learn about their risk," says Peter.

To find out if you might be rusting from within and need to iron out your health, check out the haemochromatosis fact sheet on the website for Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand here.

Key points:

- Haemochromatosis is a common genetic disorder

- If you inherit the condition and leave it untreated, it can cause serious health problems

- Visit your GP if you are concerned you might be storing too much iron


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