Haemochromatosis Awareness week will be observed between 13-19 August, with the aim of raising public awareness of the condition known as the Celtic Curse.
Haemochromatosis is an inherited iron overload disorder and it is the most common genetic disorder in Australia, with one in eight people carrying the defective gene.
Tony Moorhead, from Haemochromatosis Australia, says that Ireland has the highest rate of sufferers in the world, with 1 in 83 suffering from the disorder. One in five Irish people are carriers of the defective gene.
“It is believed that it started off with the Celts and the Vikings. Ireland was fairly geographically isolated at the time and it became concentrated there. As the Vikings moved through Europe and beyond, the gene spread,” he told the Irish Echo.
For this reason, the disorder is commonly referred as the ‘Celtic Curse’. Symptoms include chronic fatigue, weakness and joint pains, leading to osteoarthritis. Symptoms are caused by high iron levels in the body, and if left untreated, there is potential for significant organ damage.
“It is very hard for doctors to diagnose it, as the symptoms are very general. It often goes on until people are in the forties and fifties, when damage has already started to occur,” Mr Moorhead explained.
“If you have symptoms that are similar, that persist for a long period of time and are unexplained, then maybe you should talk to your GP and ask them about haemochromatosis.
“Be aware that it is an inherited condition so if you know someone in your family who has it or had it, you should get tested yourself.”
About 1 in 200 Australian people of northern European origin have the genetic risk of haemochromatosis, which can be diagnosed with a simple blood test.
If haemochromatosis is diagnosed and treated before significant damage occurs, most symptoms will decrease or disappear.
Treatment typically involves giving blood, to keep iron levels low. If you are eligible, this blood can be donated to the Australian Red Cross, which can help save lives.
A series of public information sessions will be held around the country, with events in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane, Hobart, Gold and Sunshine Coasts, and Port Macquarie.
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